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In the Free City of San Francisco, the high outer wall of the Facebook District looms over Market Boulevard. The narrow streets of the District are shadowed by the great wall, the inner ring wall, and the stark towers of the Citadel. It is only at high noon, fog-willing, that the sun kisses the pristine pavement and dog parks of that legendary enclave.
Senior Vice Consul Mike stands before an armorized window in the citadel tower. Some five-hundred feet below, he can make out the imperial blue capes of his House Guard, as they patrol the ramparts of the inner bailey. To the north, the great spire of Sancti Algorithmus, the cathedral and fortress of the Googlene Order, pierces the heart of the city.
Closer yet—too close, in his mind—are the low slung black bunkers of House Amazon. An impregnable Orb lies at the center, with barracks, warehouses, and dog parks radiating like tentacles. The district is obscured by a shimmering, smoky cloud. An illusion, for the air above the Amazon District is filled with swarms of drones.
From behind him, Consul Mike hears the soft steps of a youth’s feet on reclaimed hardwood.
“Excellency, your two-fifteen has arrived. Grand Realtor Ashley of the Knights Realtor,” says the most delicate of voices. Consul Mike does not bother to turn. It is his paddea, a willowy and ethereal thing, of no particular gender, locked in adolescence, and wearing the cranial apparatus of its kind.
The gigfolk make due with crude electronic devices and obscene headsets. But amongst the aristockracy, the fashion is to obtain a paddea, which can perform the same tasks in a more demure and discrete manner.
Consul Mike grits his teeth. “May her merit leave her, the she-snake,” he mutters.
The paddea tilts their head. “Searching the Ether for: ‘May hermit leaf shirt.’”
Consul Mike whirls and staggers toward the paddea, his eyes ablaze, roaring: “BID HER ENTER ALGORITHM DAMN YOU.” Then he stares at the handsome woodpaneled wall of his sanctum, and takes a deep breath. The paddea has silently slipped away. The Senior Vice Consul adjusts his mouth into a tight-lipped smile for his visitor, but his eyes smolder with murderhate.
The great door opens and a tall women strides in, bedecked in the goldcloth pantsuit, cape, and silicon ankle dagger of the Knights Realtor. She wears around her neck and chest the gold and pearline chestpiece of the Grand Realtor. The Triple-L, the sign of her order, is stitched upon the breast of her suitjacket. Her black hair is arranged in a luxurious and bouffant mane. It is, at present, untroubled by a ceramisteel fighting helm. Her almond eyes, closer to black than brown, are inscrutable and shark-like. Her heart-shaped face has the uncanny, pore-less aspect of a painting or filtered selfie. The age of the Grand Realtor is a closely guarded secret of the Order, but whether by genet-wizardry or good breeding, she appears not more than 35.
Consul Mike offers a cursory nod. “Grand Realtor Ashley, how pleasant of you to visit,” he says, gesturing to a leathern seat somewhat less grand than his own. His visitor lithely slips into the chair.
“Consul Mike, may your merit keep you, thank you for taking the time.” She fixes the Senior Vice Consul with an appraising look. “I trust that the Facebook Quarter is both productive and meritorious.”
“Yes, Grand Realtor, we find our…situation in the Free City to be most satisfactory.” Consul Mike’s bowel rumbles with boiling rage and vegan ramen. He loathes this pathetic monthly pantomime. This matter of the Tribute.
For since the Office Wars of the late 2000s, the Knights Realtor have laid claim to the Free City of San Francisco and kept an uneasy peace amongst the Great Houses. The knights manage the divine properties of the Golden City, and their mercenaries patrol the Seven Golden Gates…all in exchange for the Tribute: Ninety-three Old Dollars per square foot.
It is a farce because Emperor Markus could readily purchase the Free City of San Francisco with Old Dollars, or New Dollars (hah!), or BitCoins, or Gigfolk derivatives. Or one of his legions could batter through the gates and pulverize the mercenaries, and the Knights, and Grand Realtor Ashley, and take the city by the blade.
But then the skies would fill with the drones of Lord Bezos, and the iTanks of Apple would rumble north from Cupertinople, and the peace, the very profitable peace, would end.
The Senior Vice Consul sighs, snaps his fingers, and his paddea steps from behind a curtain. “If it pleases Her Grace, may I Venmo thee,” he offers, in a show of casual indifference.
Grand Realtor Ashley inclines her head, the picture of divine and chaste indulgence. Under his desk, Consul Mike fingers the hilt of his short sword, while his other sword, his mansword, engorges with bloodlust.
The Grand Realtor of the Knights of Realtor slips her manicured hand into her goldcloth jacket, and then pauses.
Searing bile slithers up Consul Mike’s gullet. He fixes his face into the marble mask of the liege lords of Facebook and braces for something loathable.
The faintest smile on the Lady Ashley. “Forgive my omission. We must raise the tribute this month by ten percent.”
The Knights Realtor, officially the Sovereign Military Order of the Divine & Real Estate of San Francisco, is a religious order headquartered in the Free City of San Francisco.
Its mission can be understood by its motto: Locus, locus locus (Calatin: Locatin, location, location.) The Order is primarily tasked with maintaining and administering real estate, which it leases to the Great Houses. The Order is the Keeper, Protector, and Property Manager of the Free City of San Francisco, which it has stewarded since the cessation of the Office Wars, and the signing of the Treaty of SOMA, in 2006.
The Knights Realtor numbers some 1,000 Realtor Knights, who can be identified by their goldcloth pantsuits and generally immaculate appearance. Much of the daily operations of the Order, including securing the territory of the Free City, falls to the Sergeants Realtor, a lay order numbering 20,000 individuals of various ranks. For military expeditions, the Knights Realtor utilize gigknights and gigsoldiers as contract mercenaries.
The Free City of San Francisco is the order’s primary possession and its chief source of income. The Great Houses each maintain districts, palaces, or embassies in the Free City (the size being dependent on the fortunes of the House). The largest possession has historically been that of House Facebook, however the district of House Amazon expands at an unprecedented pace. The Old City, in the northeastern corner of San Francisco, is dominated by the Holy City of the Googlene Order, and Sancti Algorithmus, the Order’s cathedral-fortress.
The Knights Realtor takes tribute for all of these properties and possessions, and as a result, has become an immensely wealthy and powerful order. In addition to the Free City, the Knights maintain possessions and commanderies in major western real estate markets from Los Angeles to Chinese Vancouver, and eastern outposts in the Duchy of Austin, and the Principality of Denver-Boulder.
The order is guided by a Conclave of Realtors, a council consisting of the 12 top-grossing knights. Chief among their number is the Grand Realtor, the executive, military, and spiritual leader of the order, who fulfills this post until death.
Grand Realtors are expected to lead property acquisition raids in new markets. As a result, their tenures are typically violent and short-lived.
The Saga of Silicon and Steel is an epic chronicle of the Crowned Billionaires of the Westlands.