Bottomwarp is one of the six warps of the Puzzlebox, a hedonistic playground populated by those with a passion for pleasure and congress of all stripes.
Bottomwarp was once described as "a hot, humid, twilit place, mired in a sea of musky haze". This is, by and large, still accurate, but it is a pale descriptor of what the warp has become in recent years.
Originally, Bottomwarp was organized largely in a fashion akin to a city, albeit organically shaped and inspired. This was possible by means of a sort of fluffy, foamy organic substrate. After the sundering of the connections that linked Bottomwarp to the other Warps of the Mess, something happened to this stuff. The locals refer to it now as the Growing.
The Growing is one part slime mold, one part insulating foam, and one part flowing concrete. It is definitely alive. At some point, whether by accidental experimental process run amok, intentional introduction and engineering, or random, spontaneous evolution, the substrate took on a living quality, and began to expand, and reshape its environment by designs that were not according to any one whim or collective. Like a tree, it diverged, grew, flowered and bloomed, and it has never stopped for one second since, assuming all manner of texture, colour and consistency. Sometimes, the foamy Growing will even exhibit bioluminescence, either in steady glowing patches, or coruscating whorls and swirls like aurorae.
Bottomwarp is now as much jungle as city, a teeming hive inhabited by all stripes of hedonist and libertine. It has strata, discussed in greater detail below. Its geography is now a panoply of varied terrains inspired by the wildest of terrestrial and extraterrestrial possibilities found naturally, and encouraged and guided from time to time by the inhabitants. Valleys, mesas, rivers, tunnels, forests and fields, all can be found in the varying stratigraphic layers of Bottomwarp in all manner of combination and variety.
The Growing is harmless; it does not consume so much as cover, engulf as much as ensconce. It can be encouraged and persuaded to assume shapes, follow paths, or even withdraw and hold empty volumes to produce usable spaces. It can be negotiated with, as one might negotiate with a cat; sometimes it will comply, and sometimes it will assume its own whims. Nothing remains the same forever, regardless.
Nobody is quite sure how the Growing collects energy; there are conflicting hypotheses. The most common is that it is photosynthetic to a degree that rivals the best solar collectors. Others believe it harvests energy by biological reactor. Still others, conspiratorially, believe that the Growing runs on what some Bottomwarpers describe as “orgone”, the intangible product of organic pleasure, and do everything they can to ensure the Growing has an adequate supply.
The only part of Bottomwarp that remains in the same place is a volume nicknamed the Root. Everything else changes, a controlled, slow-motion chaos. Filmed over the course of days or weeks, the vistas and layout of Bottomwarp can change completely, renewing and rebuilding, forming connections and denying old paths. Many are arguably non-euclidean, and as many, arguably, do not exist once traversed. Change and spectacular, barely-controlled, thriving chaos is now the norm for Bottomwarp.
The Root once contained the nexus of old Bottomwarp’s fast transit system, including the Magic Mirror. As though in deference to its existence, this location has remained roughly static, sufficient that inertial positioning systems, used by those so equipped, can rely on it as a calibration point. While the point in geographic space has remained, the environment around it has changed. It is a nexus of passageways, causeways, highways and breezeways arranged in a gallery akin to a broad, squat hourglass, comprised of gleaming, smooth, rich green Grow-foam. Instead of sand, the flow is of water, cascading down from a seemingly inexhaustible source high above that rings the outside of the upper volume, flows down the inner slope in a patchwork of waterfalls that change configuration by the day, and pour through the neck, along with sunlight, into a reflecting pool in the centre of the lower half.
Spiral stairs wind, and organic elevators slide behind the curtain of water above to access the “surface” of the growing, also called the canopy, an ever changing landscape of peaks and valleys where one can see the crystal blue sky above. Below, the domelike lower half of the hourglass is a common space, frequented by merchant carts, revelers and festivals, and decorated with all manner of holographic and conventional light sources. From here, it’s possible to find passages to anywhere. Some passages remain static longer than others, or change sluggishly; some are gone by the hour. Regardless, the space is honeycombed with ways to travel elsewhere, above, aside, and below.
Bottomwarp can be roughly described using analogies to a jungle, aside from the Root. The first of several layers in Bottomwarp’s structure, the Canopy consists largely of the peaks, branches, outcroppings, and stretched awnings that form a forest-like maze of suspended catwalks and bridged branches, and platforms or mesas akin to immense toadstools, akin to inhabiting a village suspended high in the branches of some unfathomably immense forest. Some of these bridges are artificial, composed of the stuff made by people, silksteel cabling and ceramic or plastic, others are spontaneous or at least purely the squishy foam of the Growing. Falling off rarely results in injury, with outcroppings and formations of soft foam the consistency of fluffy padding seemingly strategically placed wherever one is likely to tip over the edge, or slopes that redirect a falling person into one.
These “trees”, immense stalks of sheer grow-foam, are highly variable in colour and configuration, but when occupied, they give some measure of warning when change is coming. An occupied platform or fractally branching ‘tree’ of foam, say with a treehouse-style dwelling built in, may begin to recede over a course of days, giving the occupant plenty of time to adjust, where an unoccupied branch may evaporate in hours, collapsing back towards the ground rapidly. The longest gatherings of sapients in this realm can be measured in months, but no more than that. This forces the dwellers of the canopy level to be particularly itinerant. Aerostats, and airship-based transportation are frequently found here.
Above those that live here is the sky, an endless stretch of blue that meets a horizon line some kilometres distant, implying a spherical body. There is weather, albeit always mild and temperate. Also, a day/night cycle on a familiar timetable, though there are variations there too, defying even accurate timekeeping. During the day, a bright main-sequence star traverses the sky in a direction and progression that changes a little every day, randomly. During the night, a smaller, binary companion illuminates the surface with a lustrous, ivory glow. Long-time residents of Bottomwarp debate whether Bottomwarp ever possessed these astronomical features in the past, but there is even spirited disagreement in that realm as well.
The most stable of the layers of Bottomwarp, the valleys are, as the name implies, large canyons and gullies that form randomly within the structured, varied surface of the Growing. Like cracks in a cake, their walls are irregular and varied; newly formed crevices can be narrow, jagged, but smooth over within hours, forming graceful, curving slopes and breathtaking galleries. The scale of each valley varies; the largest are a few hundred metres long and wide, whereas the smallest evoke alleyways and crevasses. Frequently, these larger canyons fill with rainwater at their lowest points to create ponds, and even lakes, and hidden springs will occasionally produce streams and rivers.
These valleys also form the backbone of the flora and fauna that occupy Bottomwarp, a rather new addition. The collection includes all manner of flora, in the form of actual trees, bushes, shrubs and vines, and fauna, running the gamut from innocuous insects, fish, crustaceans, birds, mammals and reptiles. Frequently, there are observations that Bottomwarp is like a traveling zoo, circus or nature preserve. The number of species is not large, at any given time, and they seem to come and go; a species declared ‘extinct’, having not been observed for months or years, will suddenly reappear in another location entirely, without explanation. Many species exhibit bioluminescence, none that encounter people are venomous or poisonous, and when studied, there are rarely signs of genetic relation, indicating wildly differing origins.
Regardless, it is these Valleys that form the backbone of what passes for civilization in Bottomwarp. The most stable valleys can last years, but unlike the Root, they fluctuate in their configuration and size considerably on a day to day basis. One can go to sleep in an apartment carved into the side of a Valley with a view of a pond, and discover the next morning that pond is now a lake or is gone entirely, now a river draining into a new Valley spontaneously formed. Catwalks, adhesive temporary structures, cave-like dwellings, all are commonly found in the Valleys, teeming markets, networked cities of hundreds or even thousands of sapients, complete with venues and merchants of all that civilization requires. Some valleys restrict building, refusing to obey the desires of sculptors or settlers by passive resistance, stubbornly remaining as wild parks and untamed nature.
The understory of Bottomwarp, the Warrens comprise a honeycombing of passageways and chambers like an anthill that would seem to continue on down into the lowest depths of Bottomwarp’s core, if such a thing exists. Bottomwarp itself seems to be a solid, soft Grow-foam throughout, lacking any sort of bedrock or underlying geology. Periodically, channels and passageways form in the material, some lasting hours, others days.
Those occupied by people may find themselves in a cozy pocket of foam if they linger long enough, seemingly trapped, but a little cursory exploration will inevitably yield a soft patch of foam that opens into a crevice or passage to admit exit. Some use this intentionally to produce private spaces. Oxygen balance remains constant, waste gases withdrawn, as though filtered and distributed through the foam itself.
The temperature can vary, but it is almost always hot and humid, occasionally with passages that leave only narrow breathing spaces, otherwise filled with water or other organic fluids. Lighting is variable, but there is always at least some degree of diffuse glow at any depth, permitting navigation. Needless to say, the Warrens are not recommended for claustrophobes. Alternative route, however, are easy to find; even reversing direction can lead to somewhere totally different. Retracing one’s steps in the Warrens is essentially impossible; there is only going somewhere new.
The passageways that make up the Warrens go to any number of places, and this is where the non-euclidean nature of Bottomwarp is most apparent. Different passages that lead to the same place, from a different same place, with a known distance between them, can take wildly differing courses and be wildly differing lengths, to the point of being impossible. When unobserved, passages can cease to exist, or spontaneously appear. Navigating these passages, interestingly, produces the best results when conscious intention is involved, suggesting some degree of intuition or telepathy on the part of Bottomwarp itself. A party determined to return to a particular Valley, or to the Root, will inevitably find themselves there, while wanderers will remain delightfully lost.
Spaces and chambers at these depths are described variously as cocoon- or womb-like, and serve varying purposes, the most common of which is spaces for liminal and ephemeral indulgence of pleasure. Secret, spontaneous raves, cuddle-puddles, and meditative spaces are frequent finds, if one goes looking. These spaces rarely exist for more than a few days before disappearing again, making exploring the Warrens an exercise in what the game-players of Bottomwarp affectionately refer to as ‘procedural content generation’.
Civilization in Bottomwarp is robust, ever changing, and almost always delighted to see you. Some constants remain in the controlled chaos; there is a robust local commerce, fueled as much on the barter of favours, sexual and otherwise, as the other typical currencies of Puzzlebox: information, ideas, and unique technologies. One can expect to be propositioned (politely) for dalliances and pleasure at every turn, and many of the so-called businesses and establishments carved into the foamy buildings or operating out of ramshackle vehicles or carts cater to fulfilling these whims and urges with aplomb. But aside from that, Bottomwarp is like any other place, but without any sort of central governance or authority. Customary law is the law, but few are of a mind to cause infractions, and those that do are treated as individuals who are unwell and are in need of help.
Bottomwarp's modus operandi remains, as always, the pursuit of pleasure and pleasurable experiences, primarily focusing on the experiential dynamics of organic experiences. Most residents here spend their time either indulging in or providing the sought-after experiences of pleasure and sensation, or producing the means for others to provide it.
The population possesses what could be called organic-standard bodies more frequently than average, when compared to residents of other Warps. Often, they sport outlandish modifications (erotic morphing and hypertrophy, dermal alterations, neural restructuring), but they retain a focus on retaining or closely emulating nerves, blood (or blood analogues), chemical neurotransmission, brain function, and the physical sensations of the organic form. Nevertheless, Bottomwarp is home to a minority population of inorganics, ranging from digital sapiences inhabiting computing substrates, robotic denizens, and other life based on alternative means, such as silicon, or energy.
Actual formal industries vary, from crop production on sun-soaked aerostat colonies in the Canopy serving exotic restauraunts in the Valleys, to tech shops in the Valleys providing the equipment for spectacular dance parties in the Warrens, commerce is as diverse as anything, supporting a fluctuating and impossible to census population of at least several thousand individuals.
The politics in Bottomwarp are varied, but there is a sort of consensus to avoid conflict as “unproductive”, or at least to resolve conflict by means other than violence. The most popular alternative is, of course, sex. Political alliances come and go between factions of people, which are anything from loose affiliations that share a secret handshake and otherwise rarely interact in their broad wanderings, to close-knit groups that refuse to travel apart at any time. Bottomwarp’s hallmark is promiscuity, pleasure and intimacy; sex is downright common, to say nothing of nudity, and the orgasm is the most popular and sought after commodity of all.
One popular faction is the Bonobians, who have weathered the change in their environment surprisingly well; falling more into the category of ‘secret handshake’ faction, the Bonobians are bio-augmented libertine neophiles, sexually promiscuous (like most of Bottomwarp’s population) and equipped with glands that cross-connect organic brains’ senses of physical and aesthetic pleasure and encourage a degree of lewd hypertrophy (unlike most of Bottomwarp’s population). The Bonobians hail from all walks of life, from artists to technicians to mathematicians, all given a new dimension of appreciation for their work, finding physical joy in the elegance of their creations and discoveries. Often found wandering, they will periodically form ad hoc groups to tackle problems, and mostly commune with each other via datasphere, seeking out new things and summoning others to them when they find one to delight in shared experiences.
Bottomwarp’s residents are itinerant out of neccessity; it is common to have one’s dwelling spaces changing on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Those seeking stability often make their hopes in the Canopy, ironically, aboard floating aerostat colonies. Little more than floating ramshackle platforms of wood connected to dirigibles and balloons, they wander the skies, docking periodically to offload people and goods.
In the lower reaches, a favored tool for creating living spaces is the Sculptor; a combination of paint sprayer, pad sander and laser, this tool is the consensus favorite for coaxing the Growing to assume desired shapes. The paint sprayer works in conjunction with the laser, laying down a stream of experimentally derived nutrient and sugar blend that the organic substrate seems to enjoy “consuming”, and the laser warms the area, encouraging growth. Similarly, the pad massages areas smooth in conjunction with the warming laser, simulating the passage of organic feet in cadence, and thus a wall can be encouraged to retreat to form voids and rooms, and floors can be made firm and tough like ceramic.
The result is that those that wield such tools with commensurate skill, known predictably as Sculptors, can coax and encourage the Growing into arbitrary shapes and formations, sculpting ramps, rooms, vaults, galleries and bridges. Like navigating the Warrens, intention seems to form a significant component of this endeavour; those with patience, respect, and a steadfast hand produce noticeably better results than anyone.
Others still reside in an old Bottomwarp “technology” given new purpose; the venerable domichord, essentially a fairly dumb organism genetically manufactured to serve as a self-contained public housing, do very well in synergizing with the Growing. With their limited locomotion, akin to a slug, they can be encouraged to navigate in the same way that the Growing can be encouraged to take on new shapes. Within them is a simple assortment of life supporting apparatus in a thick, semi-hard shell; a place to sleep, perform ablutions like bathing and toiletries, and a simple organic protein re-processor that will go on making nutritious (albeit uncreative) meals indefinitely, so long as the domichord is supplied some basic nutrients and water.
With a literal footprint the size of a wheeled vehicle, they serve as the day to day home of many individuals, periodically imbedding or anchoring themselves within walls, nestling in as cozy apartments. When the landscape inevitably reconfigures itself around them, they wander on to the next hotspot like a lazy roving herd of lumpy, hemispherical cattle. Others prefer the simpler life of a tent or even just finding a soft private space in the Warrens to rest their heads each night.
Essentials are provided for by the usual suite of Puzzlebox’s post-scarcity accommodations. The instantiation system works without restriction here, in that it will produce everything up to complex elements, but not manufactured goods, with some coaxing. Water and waste handling seem to happen within the foam itself, unseen, and at least some of the fauna in every area are nutritious, usually identified by berry- or fruit-bearing plants. The comforts of home are made by a diverse array of artisans, with emphasis on portability in all things; collapsible furniture, folding tents, compressible pillows and beds.
In terms of supporting higher technology, Bottomwarp’s local datasphere is maintained by an enterprising cadre of ad-hoc technicians and engineers that donate their time and materials to the task, maintaining a network of basic servers, radios and routers that link to the larger Puzzlebox network. The Growing seems to be functionally transparent to longwave radio, so data transmission is possible even in the lower reaches of the Warrens, albeit at reduced bandwidth.
Perodically, explorers of the warrens will find nuggets and treasure troves of rare metals and elements that Puzzlebox refuses to instantiate, like titanium and platinum and other materials in demand by cottage industries. This keeps technologically inclined residents happy, while more mundane materials, like wood, can be harvested from the local flora. The rest is recycled endlessly. A closer look at the metals collected in the Warrens reveals that they are compositionally similar to rocks found wandering in space, suggesting that Bottomwarp is “eating” meteors and periodically regurgitating bits and pieces. This keeps the technologically diverse industries of the higher levels supplied at least minimally with the resources necessary to produce high-end equipment; if determined enough, anyone can have anything made, it’s just a matter of how many trades are going to get you there.
Electrical power is supplied largely through a mixture of solar collectors, hydrolox fuel cells and a hodgepodge of other technologies. As opposed to permanent infrastructure, the manufacture and maintenance of high-capacity, high-efficiency batteries is a roaring industry, as is the deployment and operation of temporary charging hubs, which quickly become social hotspots while in operation. Interestingly, low voltages are available by tapping the foam itself, which possesses a latent potential across any two points sufficient to at least trickle-charge basic electronics.
Most residents thus carry a simplistic arrangement of charging pads that can be stuck to a wall with some distance between them for basic needs. As always, there are luddites and technophiles, the overwhelming majority of Bottomwarp’s citizens are content with some nominal technological augmentation in the form of phones and wearables for communication. A wanderer in Bottomwarp is likely only to encounter static installations in the service of an experience, such as a rave’s lightshow, a restauraunt’s cooking appliances, or a library’s data warehouse.