“A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding." William Gibson, Neuromancer.
Upwarp is a warp of Puzzlebox, now reorganized into a city of reason, science, information, and customized environments.
The city that comprises Upwarp sprawls within a massive, three-dimensional spherical volume, with buildings extending above and below what could be called the 'ground', a transparent plane upon which all things in the warp anchor. Buildings, parks, streets, all are laid out in polar coordinates from the central origin of the volume: concentric circles of buildings ring the core, while streets either follow the circular curve between them, or radiate from the core at random points of the compass.
The plane is the reference for gravity both above and below, but it is only partially tangible. Buildings anchor to it as solidly as bedrock, but an individual can move through it as one might through a sheet of ice. Roads and sidewalks run back to back across its surface. At the fringes of the developed areas, faint gridlines can be seen glowing along the plane.
At Upwarp's heart is a single bright point of light, called the Aleph. From it, a solid beam of light called the Axis projects above and below the city seemingly into infinity, like an otherworldly tentpole for the sky washed in a perpetual twilight of pink, orange, gold and indigo. There's a theory that the Axis is one single line that eventually wraps around the curved space to return to its origin -- nobody has been able to actually test this hypothesis by flying in either direction to find its end. The current consensus is that the Axis serves primarily as a point of reference, allowing one to judge orientation and distance from the core.
The city is comprised of many varying Zones, for which different visual themes and Augmented-Reality (AR) overlays exist. In many cases, entering a Zone includes a change in one's entire sensorium (if so equipped) or matching suite of sensory inputs to match the new area. Additionally, uncountable datafeeds and communication channels permeate the volume, waiting to be tapped from anywhere -- Upwarp is very much oriented around digital information and communication. The fact that Upwarp itself is a virtual environment doesn't tend to bother anyone living there, since they're already at home navigating multiple layers of reality.
It doesn't hurt that it simply looks like the Jungian conception of cyberspace, as well. From afar, Upwarp is a tremendous, glowing, three-dimensional quartz, with buildings of darker colours outlined in neon highlights of every hue. It is a glistening city of the future, the spherical sky coruscating through the colours of twilight on a roughly diurnal cycle. Everything within is laid in precise geometrical patterns, arranged meticulously on the polar grid.
Neuromancer, Snow Crash, ReBoot, and Tron all inform the aesthetic style.
Upwarp Science, and The Aleph
Upwarp's daily life is connected intimately with the Datasphere -- the popular colloquialism for the repository of information, communications, and constantly-churning data gathered from everywhere in the 'Box. It is vast enough to be considered near-infinite in scope, potentially even containing information concerning events that haven't happened yet, or objects and persons that are yet to exist.
As with any sufficiently large set of data, deriving useful, applicable pearls of wisdom from the Datasphere is an awesome undertaking. Organizationally, this breaks down to what Upwarp denizens tend to call Research and Science. Collating data, filtering the oceans of gathered information, sifting and rendering them down to usable forms and readable archives, all these tasks are lumped under the umbrella of Research. The far less regimented practice of finding interesting ideas within that sorted data and ultimately doing something with it is considered Science.
The primary way in which information is gathered is through the Aleph. Functionally, the Aleph is an infinitely vast source of information, but it contains no inherent organization. Like determining a star's makeup by telescope, the Aleph's surface is a churning maelstrom of chaotic, flowing data, and its contents can be derived by studying its cast-off emissions and patterns. Thus, gathering information from the Aleph is akin to collecting water from a waterfall by holding a thimble to the spray at its edge: each thimble contains enough data to keep corps of researchers busy for months.
Physically accessing the Aleph is practically impossible, as the intense energy of the Aleph disassociates instruments and 'matter' within close physical proximity. The most common way to access the Aleph is to simply drop probes in nearby, just beyond the disassociation range, and suck up what you can over time. A cloud of data-probes ring the Aleph in all three dimensions, fuelling the Research consortia in the innermost ring. Surrounding that are the Science Zones, which tend to also maintain the databases of information deemed complete.
Upwarp denizens are much more comfortable sifting and filtering a few different realities or infostreams at a time, derived from curated Aleph data -- but trying to directly experience the Aleph, essentially seeing everything all at once, is madness-inducing. Even a brief, temporary immersion in the raw datastream collected from the Aleph remains a difficult endeavour, but remains as a sort of initiation ordeal for many of the Research consortia. Thus, appropriately, most of them are just a little bit mad.
It's still unknown what the Aleph actually is, despite considerable time and processor power devoted to answering the question; while the Aleph could theoretically contain information about itself, finding that information among the tremendous volume of data passing through it is just as difficult as finding anything else specific. The popular theory is that the Aleph is a singularity containing the remains of the old Datasphere of Puzzlebox, which collapsed in on itself some time after the Magic Mirror system shut down, possibly also taking old Upwarp with it.
The existence of the Aleph very directly informs the structure of the cityscape. In closer proximity to the center, information naturally grows more accessible, systems tend to work much faster, everything is extra-efficient (aside from the mad experiments in the Science Zones). Thus, the truly limited resource of Upwarp is the space available within the spherical volume immediately surrounding the Aleph.
While Downwarp is sometimes considered an experiment in artificially-limited resource scarcity, Upwarp is an experiment in unlimited resources but artificially-limited proximity and space. Zones can be located anywhere, but only without overlap, which means that closer to the center there is less space available. At the same time, space closer to the Aleph is more desirable due to greater efficiency in data flow and processing speeds. Contrariwise, on the outer rim, there's plenty of space but a far less optimal data flow overall. Sections of city can grow upward and downward from the equatorial plane, but there's some functional limitations to extending too far in either direction; rules pervade the environment akin to the real world, and building too tall is a risky endeavour, just as anywhere else.
The limitations of space are more or less enforced by a transportation network limited in speed. Roads and highways are still mostly necessary, though the aerial versions can more easily break the polar coordinate layout, so they tend to be more common. Actual individual vehicles are mostly for show, since using the transport network could just as easily be done in a tiny personalized pod.
An interesting limitation here is that, for the most part, there is no teleportation allowed. The overwhelming majority of methods of travel that use instantaneous transmission of information, or "spooky action at a distance", simply fail to function, where they function flawlessly elsewhere. Information flow is stuck to the speed limits imposed by proximity to the core, and nothing seems to be able to violate that cardinal rule. There are quick-travel pads organized by radial sector, but these are more "fast travel" stations, and are much farther apart in the outer Zones.
Both the transportation restrictions and the space-allocation system are managed by a subsystem that remains in the background, interfacing through software agents when necessary. Citizens of up tend to assume it is not sentient, but it has never shown concrete evidence either way, so they have affectionally nicknamed the entity Null. The main issue that anyone has with Null is that it is perhaps too strict on requirements of space usage.
Essentially, to keep ownership and stewardship of a given Zone or smaller space within it, someone must actively be using it. The criteria has, of course, been tested extensively and has been found to be relatively simple in practice. A citizen needs to regularly upkeep their zone by moving around within it, giving a certain amount of attention to it. This can also be delegated to other people, but only to a point. A random stranger can't camp out in someone's yard to prevent it from changing, but a citizen can designate someone to patrol the boundaries, making sure that their favorite spot isn't suddenly reallocated to someone else. This doesn't happen randomly -- the Null subsystem helpfully populates the datasphere with plenty of accessible data to tell you rates of expiration and how often one needs to upkeep on zones that one owns (info on zones other people own are not shown, by design). The closer to Aleph one gets, the more desired the space is, and the faster claims decay.
The various chunks of cityscapes are, in a very literal sense, functional Temporary Autonomous Zones.
Using the underlying system built into the subatomic structure of the local physics, a zone can be created and filled with just about anything. In the AR overlays, space is still at a ratio of 1 to 1--things can be seen that aren't there, but for the most part physical things you'd want to interact with are created out of the city's smart-matter substrate. However, spaces and the things that make up the zone must be actively maintained or used to keep from being reallocated. For example, you could create a sprawling fantasy monarchy, but be constantly patrolling the borders to make sure some part of it doesn't suddenly turn into someone else's space opera fantasy.
Of note, people will remain, but places and things may vanish or turn into something else. There is a certain amount of negotiation with the allocation system in keeping some personal (important or often-used) things, but an also-limited inventory to keep those in. The limitations are artificial, but intended to provide structure to an otherwise infinite space.
Zones are managed by their initial creators, and Null maintains access and privacy controls that manage who can go to one or even who can see one. Some Zones are entirely invisible (and thus private) to anyone not living there or on the guest-access list. Zones are also characterized by varying visual themes and settings--a naturalistic setting could be right next to a huge chunk of city. The main principle in play is persistence--spaces do not overlap each other except at the edges, and people can't pass through each other even if they're virtual projections. Roads and aerial highways are always public, but routes passing through private Zones follow the restrictions of the owner.
Zones can be created by an individual or by a collection or group. Folks can carve out a personal bedroom, house, or larger region by sending a request to Null, with varying degrees of preference for location. Subspaces can be managed within a larger Zone (the interior of a building, a single apartment space within a building, etc). If a general proximity preference is given (close to Aleph, close to other preferred zones), the space is created and allocated the space available up to the size requested. If no preference, then the space is created in a random location--and the creator is relocated to it. Notably, one of the few exceptions to the 'no teleportation' rules, but Null will largely catch people who abuse this system, setting up a space just to transport quickly across the city. The standard punishment tends to be immediate relocation to a far-flung outer region of the city, with quick-travel access temporarily revoked.
As an example of how this all works (as assumed by scientists studying Null): Nik decides he wants a new lab, close in to the Science zones. He requests of Null a small city-block-sized space. Null finds a spot close enough that's about to expire, keeping watch on several other suitable but less-preferred locations. Three other requests come in shortly afterwards, with similar preferences. Null weights the requests in order they arrived, and performs a lottery based on that data. Nik wins, and is teleported to the empty zone, and given access to customize the space as he wishes. The others in the queue get similar spaces as they become available, even though not all of them are the favored location.
Some notes on Upwarp’s city road system: everything is circular, centering on the Aleph, and the roads run both radially and angular.
Rather than keep the 360-degree system for polar coordinates, Upwarp uses the more economical gradian measurement, also known as ‘gons’. Each right-angle section is 100 gons, with a full sweep around being 400. Rather than 'Street' or 'Avenue', these are simply labeled 'Gon' in signage and metadata.
The roads are labeled according to this scheme: angular lines that lead in towards the Aleph, or towards the outside of the city, are each numbered. 104th St, 390th—each gives a measure where one is around the circle. The ring roads leading out from the Aleph are named using the numerical prefix system borrowed from old scientific convention. The first road is Mono, the next Di, the third Tri, and so forth. Past the first few inner rings, streets may end in city blocks and reappear again on the other side, as zones are allowed to take up more space. The naming format for these are always followed by 'Street'.
The broader highways leading in and out of the center are at 0, 100, 200, and 300 Gons (each right angle), while smaller ones emerge at each angle in between. Along these four primary and four secondary routes are the Skip nodes, a network of point-to-point teleportation that enables slightly faster travel between larger districts of the city. The innermost of these nodes are around Icosa Street, continuing with every 20 rings until Hecta, where the pattern widens to every 100 rings. This of course keeps the outer zones much more spread out in terms of accessibility, which is how most of those who live there prefer it, since it's often larger estates and countries easier to maintain.