It's not only necessity, it's wire coat hangers, paper clips, and to quote Thomas Edison, "All you need to be an inventor is Imagination and a pile of junk." -- Knitnan
[AN: Edison probably stole that line from Tesla ;) ]
Station residents called it the Labyrinth, if they knew about it at all. Every station that's been around long enough acquires a zone that fades through neglect and into an area where people who don't want to be found are wont to hide.
Those areas don't exactly have residents. They have denizens. Law touches these realms lightly, if they touch them at all. So long as nobody is murdered, the understanding goes, or as long as nobody buggers with station biota, the law leaves it mostly alone.
They keep to themselves. They do the things that nobody else is willing to do. They do not, by and large, make waves.
Amalgam Station has been in use long enough for its area of lawlessness to become its own district. It took some years for a treaty to evolve between it and Station Security. Resulting in a tradition of officers patrolling the main streets and allowing any trouble the denizens might have to come to them.
And, lately, there have been JOATs. Since time has become money, a popular method of paying taxes has been in community services. The Labyrinth is a community that likes services that don't cost them anything.
Today's JOAT wears brown under their rainbow coat. And carries a slate and some chalk. They found an open space by what looked like a crossroads and waited.
It took an hour for the first of the kids to peek out at them. A further hour for one to approach.
"'T'cha doin'?" demanded the kid. They wore all colours imaginable and a few that weren't. Like most child denizens, they carried their shoes over their shoulder and travelled the Labyrinth barefoot.
"I'm waiting to learn," said the JOAT.
"Y' ain't got no school?"
"School can't teach me what I want to learn."
A second sprite emerged from a duct. "So what'cha learnin' here?"
"I'm learning how here works. Would you like to teach me?"
"Trade?" said the elder.
"I'm trading JOAT lessons. If you want them."
Both sides knew that JOATs from outside the Labyrinth didn't always respect the denizens' need for secrecy. Or their need for this ruined space. The Elemeno was testimony to that. But, a JOAT who came from the Labyrinth might make the changes that everyone needed. That was Sei the JOAT's goal.
And one of the lessons was making things that weren't needed until they were made. The kids already knew the best scrounge items. What they didn't know was how to put them together and make new things. There was no shame in repairing broken needs, but invention was a boon that the Labyrinth desperately needed.
And there was plenty of raw material. And even better, the people with it didn't view it as junk. They saw it as a potential income. And if a thing was beyond hope, there were ways to recycle it by hand. Break it into as many component parts as possible and make something entirely new out of it.
Of course Sei helped with the heavy lifting. Learning how to create things on a forge was always hot and heavy work. And in a few months, there were adults who drifted in to learn.
There were no names. Sei expected none. The skill market worked exclusively on what one could teach another.
And on one day, when Sei was resting her feet, one of the kids asked a good question.
"What're you inventing here?"
Sei smiled. "A better tomorrow."
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