Marl and Isabelle Taura, both twenty-seven years of age and experienced shoemakers, rode their wagon over the last hill on their way from Teece to Plutopolis with their four year old daughter and saw the great clock tower that loomed over the city in its glory. They could see a giant quarry to its east, where the city got most of its materials for its metalwork.
They had heard of the wonders people could achieve amidst the new technological advancements. they could learn new skills and earn money in the mean time selling shoes.
Billboards and banners hung all over the city and were what first caught their eyes, they advertised all manner of tools, food, potions and all sorts of wonderful sounding things. The streets weren't cobbled like they were used to, instead they used flat slabs of stone which were smooth and warm underfoot in the midsummer sun. The houses had tiled roofs and a stylish aesthetic. The people wore buttoned clothes, and everyone walking the streets seemed wealthy. It was busy, but not crowded and various trees and plants occupied areas that would otherwise be left empty.
Marl saw a man wearing overalls sprinkling some luminescent dust over the plants around the area. Marl asked the man what he was doing and the man explained that he was a gardener, spreading ground deistones over the plants to keep them alive, or they wouldn't last long in a place like this. Marl was taken aback by such frivolous use of a rare resource, but then conceded that it was just another part of this place's charm.
There was a display by the city square in the courtyard of the clock tower, new models were on show and they were excited to see new machinery. Their engines glowed from within with the strained deistones bringing them to life. A group of people were about to take them on an expedition to gather more deistones. They wore more practical clothes and were armed with rifles and pistols.
Setting off with enthusiasm he went about selling his shoes from the back of his wagon and before long he had sold his first pair. Marl sent Isabelle to get some lunch with the money made, but after a couple of hours of waiting for her to return with food all she had to show for it was a single head of cauliflower.
'I'm sorry dear. but food is far more expensive here than in Teece' She said.
Marl was surprised by this, but he raised his prices to compensate. But after raising prices considerably he found business dried up, customers claimed they could buy shoes much cheaper at local stores. On top of this, the price of leather was high and Marl couldn't comprehend how he was supposed to make enough to survive, never mind afford a place to stay. Marl and Isabelle were quickly learning that there was something seriously wrong with the local economy.
Marl decided to see how other shoemakers were getting by and found a large store called "Beatavid's Shoes" which was fully staffed with people assisting customers with their needs.
As soon as he started to inquire about their business he was quickly ushered out. But not being swayed by this he looked for more shoe stores but to his disdain he found that there were only three more throughout the city and they all were franchisees of Beatavid's Shoes.
Investigating further, he observed several other monopolies around the city for each of the various goods and services that one might need. His heart sank as he realised he couldn't make money with his own skills, but he could still find work and raise money here. Looking around the various advertisements he found many offering jobs as a low level worker, but he knew what he wanted to do, he wanted to build machines, if he could do that then he could make his own and leave this place, maybe in just a few years. But alas all machines were produced by the self appointed Earl Pennyholme at Pennyholme Industries.
He applied for a job and was accepted for an interview quickly due to his skills as a craftsman, but upon reviewing the contract he regretted coming to this city.
He, his wife and his daughter were to become willing property of Pennyholme industries for five years and they would be supplied with a basic income and free housing, but his wife and daughter would also be put to work. What work they would do was unspecified.
He could work for a living and learn some new skills, that's what he wanted when he came here, but he didn't realise how steep the price was. It also stated that he would be allowed to engrave his signature into his work, the idea that he might make a name by the quality of his work appealed to him greatly. But it also stated clearly that breaking the terms of the contract was legally punishable by death.
He reasoned that five years wasn't all that long, just a delay to get to their new lives. He had taken them such a long way from their old homes with the promise of more comfortable lives, and more importantly, with greater freedom. But here he was with his hand hovering over a contract consigning them to slavery.
He needed to provide for them and could not concede that he had made a mistake by coming here, so he took a deep breath and signed.
They were put to work immediately and Marl found himself working in a factory. When his anxiety had settled a bit he took to the work with vigour and excelled. His wife had been chosen to work as a maid, for which he was greatful, as he quickly learned that the factory environment was dangerous. But his daughter was tasked with cleaning the larger machines.
Several months into their work his daughter came home from work in tears, one of her new friends had lost a hand and died of blood loss. This frightened Marl and Isabelle to their core, Isabelle's patience had been unbreakable until that point, but when she realised the hell that Marl had put their daughter through she couldn't take it any more. That's when they started to argue. Their relationship which once was an example to all, now was strained and damaged.
One day their daughter fell ill and her fever ran high, Isabelle's temperament turned from unstable to one of complete panic. She screamed at Marl, blamed him for the death of their daughter at any moment, then during the night, she took their daughter and tried to flee the city.
Marl ran around their small home, his heart racing looking for the two. He set out to look for them, he went to the authorities, however before long, he knew he had to get to work or break his contract. But during his shift one of his employers approached him and informed him that his wife had tried to flee the city and was shot in the leg and treated. His daughter was also seen to, he was relieved to hear that no charges would be persued against them if they returned to work as soon as they were well. But just as everything had a down side in this city, to pay for the costs of their treatment, the family's contract had been extended by fifteen years.
His daughter was back to work in a fortnight and his wife took several months before she could walk again, but she stopped talking to Marl. All she did was think of their former home in Teece. All Marl could do to escape the immediacy of this situation was to focus on his work, he developed innovations and presented them to his superiors, and after a few more years his fortune finally turned.
The quality of his work had been mentioned by the customers that bought it and his name turned up from time to time amidst the the upper board members until suddenly he and his family had been reassigned.
They were to move to Earl Pennyholme's new estate in the north, his vacation home that he would visit for a few weeks out of the year. They were to maintain the home and the machinery there. Marl couldn't believe it, he had made it after all, but as he left the city of this disdain, he couldn't help but think of his colleagues, fellow slaves who weren't as lucky as him.