GAMMA WORLD: DAWNS OF SORROW- A POST-APOCALYPTIC ROLE PLAYING GAME SET IN THE 30th CENTURY

fiction by Christopher T. Shields

INTRODUCTION

 

How noble this creature known as Man

Man, from Australopithecus Africanus to Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens, may have existed on earth for hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of years. During this time, one skill, one particular talent has set Man apart from every other creature- his ability to conceive and create tools. Indeed, Man has been termed as the "tool-making creature." That is true, as no other animal or mammal on the face of the planet produces and uses tools to further their way of life and no other animal or mammal on the face of the planet creates toys of war and destruction for its young.

From chipped rock and polished bone to long sword and abacus, from nuclear energy and computers to directed high energy beam and artificial intelligence, Man has constantly been redesigning, improving, and refining his tools to meet his ever-changing needs and desires. Some tools have been interesting and amusing toys for his children or himself. Some tools have vastly improved his way of life. Others have been necessary for his continued survival.

A few of his tools have nearly caused his total extinction.

The Age of the Ascendancy of Man

The advent of a new dawn of technology and power began for Man early in the 25th century. The two hundred year period which followed would be known as the "Age of Ascendancy" a time when Mankind’s existence was unparalleled, when his capacity to build and create was only challenged by his capacity to imagine, for what Man could dream of Man could construct. Man’s knowledge would grow in leaps and bounds until even the very secrets of the universe would seem to be within his grasp. Man’s achievements, using his new tools, would eventually elevate him to a near god-like stature, and ultimately, to a near god-like arrogance for which Man would pay a terrible price.

The rape of the Earth’s resources and beauty in the 20th through the 23rd centuries had been halted and reversed, mostly again due to Man’s tools. Man realized his tenuous nature on this planet, of the importance of the delicate balance of the ecosphere and all life that depended upon maintaining the vitality of the ecosphere. After a hundred years of stagnating in his own filth and pollution, in the year 2402 AD, Mankind set about to clean up his home.

Reclaiming his home from the selfish ravages and ignorance of previous generations would prove a monumental task, but Man, with the aid of cheap and efficient robot labor, learned to control, shape and use energy and gravity to his will. Projects that would normally have taken centuries took mere decades. Mankind moved as one, united under a singular will to restore his home to the paradise it once was. And better.

The terraforming of Man’s home planet was perhaps his greatest achievement. But the sheer scope of this project, the power and resources needed, instigated a technology race only surpassed by that required for war. Mankind’s technology expanded exponentially. No task was impossible to him, no goal too lofty, no dream too insubstantial.

The planet turned a lush green, the waters a dark blue, the air became clear, clean, natural species flourished in abundance and the Earth flowered under the gentle touch of metal and flesh working together.

Harnessing the power of gravity

The knowledge and understanding of the physics of gravity allowed Man to build architectural projects of mythical proportions and dimensions. Gone were the simple designs of previous centuries and the all too limiting retrospective looks at earlier cultures. Mankind now set about to set new standards, new goals, and new styles. The drive became not to copy what had been produced before, but to invent and create designs and shapes never before seen or possible. Designs that would surpass anything that had come before. Man’s desire was to reach for the previously unobtainable, and to conquer it and move beyond. This desire became the determining social drive of Humanity.

Architecture became an artistic medium open to individual interpretation and expression. The reckless and squalid urban pallor of the previous centuries was methodically replaced by monuments that towered to the limits of the imagination and spread out for the needs of a fast growing society. Architecture that defied the understood basics of construction of previous centuries appeared, massive structures. Incredible architectural works were supported by fields of counter-gravity, constructed of miracle materials, defined by walls of sheer force and energy, environmentally controlled with natural heating and cooling, and supplied with the limitless power available to the world and to Man at that time. The natural force of gravity itself gave up its millennia old mysteries and became a willing slave to Man. His houses and buildings floated, some even flew. The offices and headquarters of many corporations, political powers, and military installations had the ability not only to fly, but to also relocate to different areas and climates. Business might be conducted on one day from one of the arctic poles and the next from an ocean side vista, all by simply moving the office itself.

Many ancient roads and highways, long patched together with primitive construction materials, were finally reclaimed with massed robot labor. Vast tracts of land were replanted and landscaped, and entire areas of the continents returned to nature, returned to a state of a time seemingly before Man. The advent of anti-gravity for transportation in most forms of transit signified that any place on the surface of the planet, beneath the waves, or even in close orbit was accessible within a few hours at most to even the average family of the new age Civilization. The freedom that the understanding and harnessing of gravity gave Man was tremendous.

Man and his imagination took flight, and his Civilization soon followed.

Unlimited power for Civilization

Man’s dependence on the dwindling global supply of crude fossil fuels came to a rapid end with the introduction of viable and cheap alternative methods of generating power. High efficiency solar and nuclear power became economical enough to be available to all but the poorest nations and powers. Wind farms, solar traps, hydroelectric tidal generators, geo-thermal core taps, lava dams, thermal magma turbines, and a host of other engineering achievements all provided cheap and abundant power for Civilization’s needs. Within decades, an incredible surplus of energy was available, stockpiled in containment areas and storage facilities around the world and in orbit, shared as needed by all of Civilization.

Crude atomic fission power gave way to advanced nuclear fusion power and finally to large scale total annihilation piles which were implemented among the richest and most influential nationcity-states of the time. Privately owned subcompact nuclear fusion generators were common, even in installations as small as commercial ventures, municipal complexes, apartment blocs, and the largest personal homes. A generation later, small, very affordable and portable fusion generators appeared in all aspects of Civilization, from the industrial work site to the home workshop to the wilderness retreat campsite.

Fossil fuels vanished from primary use in very short order, as did the pollution that the devices they powered emitted. Thirty-six air scrubbing stations were set up around the globe to recycle the atmosphere. In fifty years, the pollutants had fallen from dangerous levels to pre-industrial levels of saturation. Thirty years beyond that, and the atmosphere was free of artificial elements.

In 2532, the first functional broadcast power generating station was built in Sangeles and a generation later, the entire world ran on broadcast power. Two generations after that, any form of internal combustion was only found in museums and private collections. Each city or town had its own primary and auxiliary municipal nuclear power grids, or had power beamed down from orbiting solar energy farms and power transmission satellites.

 

 

The Reclamation of the Earth

The one constant truth understood during the Age of Ascendancy was that physical matter and resources could neither truly be created nor destroyed. The amount of matter available to Man was always of a finite quantity and it was up to Man to use every last bit of material available to him in the most efficient and logical way possible. Although physical matter could not be destroyed (from a physics point of view), it could be used over and over again if it could be broken down into its component atoms. All forms of material were sent to the molecular recyclers and broken down into individual atoms. These atoms were isolated by atomic weight and content, stored by elemental cataloging then piped into Man’s nanoforges as needed. This advanced recycling technology let Man build his great Civilization with very little residual loss, waste, or pollution. Recycling was extended into every aspect of society, and recycling areas were found in the most convenient locations, even the individual home.

The pan-cultural desire not to pollute the Earth again led to the items of Civilization being made to last and to be recyclable after their useful lives had expired. Very few things in society were truly disposable, many had multiple uses, all ran on rechargeable power cells or directly by broadcast or solar power, many had two or more power sources for uninterrupted operation cycles. Most items were designed to operate reliably for decades (or more) and were able to be recycled into their component materials for use in constructing newer, more modern items when the need or desire required.

Without the litter and pollution of Civilization to choke it, global forestation spread at a record rate, aided by genetically enhanced seeds and advanced fertilization techniques, administered by robotic attendants and workers. Genetic splicing of different plant species resulted in new varieties never before occurring in nature. Man, using his tools and knowledge, could manipulate the genetic structure of the plant kingdom, producing plants that would grow in the desert, or underwater. New strains were produced simply for their aesthetic appeal. Botany and horticulture became another art form, and those who could shape the basic structure and genetics of plants became artists. Genetic alteration of basic stock produced fast growing species of common flowers, plants and trees. Abundant robot labor re-seeded the planet, sculpted the wilderness, and worked tirelessly to reclaim what once Man had horribly disfigured. The Earth became a paradise.

Vast wilderness projects were introduced, and landscaping became a form of art, second in calling only to architecture, and driven by a cultural desire bordering on devotion. Cities and towns incorporated landscaping into their urban design as part of the meshing of Civilization and nature. Whole areas became wildlife preserves and observatories, species once in danger of extinction flourished and spread, roaming at will where once Man had dumped his pollution and waste.

Individual site terraforming of the planet allowed climates to be changed to be favorable to the area residents with very low ecological impact. Vast deserts became grasslands, swamps were drained and re-engineered into lush forests, and irrigation was brought to arid lands. Man and plant soon thrived in areas where nature had once prohibited them from doing so.

 

The Artificially Sentient

The first Artificial Intelligence (or Artifint) built by Lansec, a Hindian conglomerate with the backing and support of several Eurasian zaibatsus, came online in 2105, but it was five years later before it attained sentience and self-awareness. The Lansec Artifint was a huge commercial success, and success often invites competitors into the market. One such competitor was NOAH (NOrth American Heuristic of the Vancouver Autonomous Combine) which built the world’s second successful Artifint just two years later. The more advanced NOAH designed Artifint had a gestation period of only fifteen months before it gained sentience and was an even bigger commercial success than the Lansec model. However, Lansec was preparing to introduce their own newer, more advanced second-generation model of Artifint. NOAH saw the potential for the market and took steps to protect itself and its product. Within three years, NOAH had enough commercial leverage to buy out the smaller Lansec and incorporate all of its proprietary technology base into one cohesive multi-front operation, including the almost complete design for the second generation Artifint which made the first generation model resemble an abacus in performance. The perceived windfall of proprietary technology from this history making merger paved the way not only for faster and more compact Artifints, but also for the basic technology that would one day be required to build a stable virtual reality network on a global scale. By 2120 the number of commercial companies that could produce a viable Artifint was just seven. Forty years later, in 2160 AD, the number of commercial and private industries based on the manufacture of Artifints was two hundred and seventy-three.

Generation after generation, artificial intelligence rapidly evolved in speed and power while decreasing in size and cost. Each new generation of Artifints was a revolutionary leap over the previous generation. Artifints soon controlled every major aspect of life, from massive traffic grids in major cities to flight control for spaceports and transportation ports, to the manipulation of the area nuclear power grids and the transmission of power from orbit for the smooth operation of Civilization. Artifints controlled automated manufacturing facilities and regulated the energy supplied to individual residences. Artifints acted as neutral advisors to political, military, and religious branches of society. Artifints were also extremely long lived, and had their own inalienable rights. The inception of a new artificially sentient creation could be viewed as a long term investment. The artificially sentient would serve many generations, lasting centuries of their own accord, growing wise with experience.

In 2358 AD, the Vatican brought its own Artifint, "Raphael", online, using the Artifint to store the total knowledge of the Christian faith and to do research into secular, extra-secular and non-secular aspects. Raphael proved beyond a doubt that Artifints were living creatures. The Church argued if Artifints had souls, and if something that was created by Man could truly have a soul. Raphael would become a centuries long project in this aspect. This one act of the Church bringing an Artifint into the official fold of the House of God brought down the final boundaries of Man, Machine, and Religion. Artifint development and deployment was quite rapid thereafter. Global acceptance of the CORE and the banishment of ignorance and silly superstition about artificially created intelligent life were the two main contributing factors that led to the wild birth rate of Artifints from 2362 AD to 2912 AD. Situational awareness education of both humans and machines helped avoid the many potential conflicts that existed so readily in both theory and bad multi-feed drama units.

Following closely and paralleling the development of the Artifints were the Permanent Cybernetic Installations or PCIs. Where the Artifints were strictly machines capable of true independent thought via their virtual thought accelerators, the Permanent Cybernetic Installations were biorganic based entities. Each PCI was a genetically tailored, highly specialized and evolved thought organism that was attended to by advanced life support and mutual interface systems. The thought component of a PCI was a highly advanced, vat grown artificial brain arranged in a stable organic neural matrix. The genetically perfect neural tissue created for the sole purpose of super logical thought and reason at levels and depths of performance that rivaled that of the Artifints. The organic thought elements of the PCI, modeled after the blueprint that was the human brain, from the outset were created to fully utilize the total capacity of available neural material. Man, of a lesser order and on average, only used about five percent of his available brain capacity for thought whereas a PCI used the full one hundred percent. The typical PCI ‘brain’ weighed two hundred kilos and occupied one point five square meters. The support system required to sustain the PCI weighed eight metric tons and occupied over forty square meters.

The PCIs were of a branching technology different than the mainstream Artifints. The various types and models of Artifints, while being highly advanced super state technology, were still artificial constructs, cold hardware endowed with the capacity of sentience and free-will / free thought, machines designed to imitate the process of life. The PCIs, in direct contrast to the Artifints, were true living beings designed to imitate the process of machines. Together, the two technologies were equal but opposite approaches to the same problem; synthetic manufactured higher order intelligence. Each had distinct advantages and disadvantages, the strengths of one were the weaknesses of the other. Together, they coexisted in a symbiotic relationship within the CORE. Together, they were referred to as ‘the artificially sentient’.

As the Artifints rapidly evolved, so too did the PCIs. The artificially sentient were moving in directions that their creators were not quite sure of, nor had originally intended for. Mankind watched in fascination and some unease as a new type of life was developing and evolving in the CORE, a virtual mirroring of the natural process of selection and furthering of the species was taking place. Artificially created life was imitating natural life and the situations developing within the CORE drew heated debate and criticism for many generations. Mankind watched in wonder as his ‘creations’ took on a life of their own, their manifold destinies now beyond his ability to control, for better or worse.

Artifint ‘bred’ with Artifint, PCI with PCI to form new genetic lines of each type. The variances were startling, but each new generation grew faster and smarter, evolving from the previous generation where any defects were culled, and any advantages carefully nurtured and cultivated. By the end of the 26th century, the CORE was getting crowded. High density storage elements were moved off-world to near orbit, and even below the surface of the Moon in order to handle the ‘population’ explosion that was taking place in the CORE. The transfer of data between far and near (orbital and planetary) sectors of the CORE became the cause of concern to many. Mankind took seven and a half years to build a hyper-speed pulse transmitter array network that imitated the neural pathways of the brain itself. This extensive network array of continuous pulse emitters was built in orbit and across the surface of the Earth and the Moon. When it came online, it was able to handle the traffic load of the expanding CORE for generations to come. The modular construction of the array, borrowed from the design of the CORE itself, insured that critical failures could be dealt with in a timely and economical manner. The cost to maintain the CORE was staggering but its benefits far outweighed the cost of its daily operation.

By the end of the Age of Ascendancy, Artifints and PCIs could be found as small as hand held personal assistant models, on desktops, built into furniture or complex tools, and in everything from the family aeropod to a suit of military powered armor. Bonds with the ‘family’ Artifint / PCI or the ‘soldier’s’ Artifint / PCI were common and deep and Artifints served many generations of the same family or corporation. Smaller personal PCIs used only two square centimeters of organic neural matter with the total support and operating system massing only four kilograms.

Man and the artificially sentient shared all knowledge and explored what it meant to exist together in various phases of reality, from real-time to virtual to mutual. Man provided the imagination for projects and the artificially sentient brought that imagination to life with detailed designs and robotic / nanotic labor implementation. If the technology didn’t exist for Man’s desires, Man and the artificially sentient worked to create that technology. Man’s very dreams were assembled and made manifest in Artifint controlled robot factories and huge industrial manufacturing complexes on Earth, in orbit, and on the Moon. The artificially sentient played very important roles in daily politics, religion, military and even corporate strategy.

 

 

The rise of the CORE and artificial life

Even by the beginning of the Age of Ascendancy, the world had been connected digitally through a somewhat antiquated global network for centuries. What wasn’t hard lined was available as a satellite signal from space covering any area on the surface of the globe. Telecommunications and computers had advanced in quantum leaps since the late 20th century to the point where processing power bordering true artificial sentience was available in a personal format to the average citizen of modern Civilization. Virtual reality had long ago been perfected to the point that all of the major senses of the human body could be stimulated artificially and persuaded into believing that the digital sensory input was real. Information flowed at the speed of light directly to the human cortex, exchanged without the traditional boundaries or time or distance. The sum of all of Mankind’s knowledge, stored digitally and archived many thousands of times over by the great institutions of thought and higher education of the day, was available at the touch of a finger or the whim of fancy to anyone who desired it.

The framework for a new global network appeared with construction being carried out by all nations and states for the betterment of all of Mankind. Within a period of less than a decade, the Global Data Sphere (GDS) otherwise known simply as ‘the CORE’ was complete, replacing the primitive earlier global scale network completely. The limiting factor of the centuries old previous network was that while computer technology had advanced, the framework for sharing data and networking the world’s computers lagged behind in similar advancement by generations. Computing power outstripped the simple ability to interface efficiently and the global network soon suffered several historic and critical failures due to overload. The network was strained to the breaking point, unable to handle the incredible amounts of traffic that it was being required to service on a nanosecond by nanosecond basis, data loads it had never been intended to handle at its conception centuries prior. The old international network system lagged, and was in danger of collapsing entirely, a disaster that would affect the world economy and many nationcity-states of the time adversely. The ultra-modern virtual CORE was the answer.

The CORE was the most costly investment yet made by Mankind. It drew its power from millions of computers interfaced and online at the same time. Each new computer that came online added its processing power and storage capacity to that of the CORE. Huge processing engines and entire data storage complexes were constructed. Auxiliary power nodes were built, and the CORE stabilized. Constant updates to the structure of the CORE ensured that it at least kept pace with the advancements of the computing technology of the day. The design of the CORE was modular, if a segment ever failed, redundant segments took over the load with no loss in band width or transmission speed. Damaged components of the CORE superstructure were easily replaced in a matter of minutes and any component that could go bad had many spares stored nearby for quick repair.

Within the CORE, the world (and Man) existed in a virtual and digital representation of itself, a world of mirror and illusion where every action had an impact in the real world. The use of virtual reality meant that no place on Earth could remain unvisited. No one had to remain a stranger unless they wanted to. Global distances became nonexistent through the use of virtual reality, and even orbit and the colonies were just an interface away. Money became virtual, electronic, digital. Hard currency became a curiosity and somewhat suspect. Hardcopies of every day data and records moved into the CORE. Most business transactions were handled using Artifints as moderators and using the CORE as the medium of moderation and exchange. Time moved differently after the CORE was implemented into Civilization. Reality became measured in three methods; real, virtual, and mutual. Real time was time spent outside of the CORE, virtual time was time spent within the CORE, interfaced via a myriad of available networks and systems. Mutual time was time spent both inside and outside the CORE, where the user had real time presence but at the same time a direct feed from the CORE into the real world. The use of mutual reality began to rise sharply with the advent of personal data interfaces or PDIs. The population of the Age of Ascendancy lived three lives, one waking, one sleeping, and one spent within the CORE connected to billions of other human beings, computers, Artifints, and intelligent machines.

Most business was conducted in a virtual reality interface, where people separated by distance could meet face to face virtually and conduct transactions. Access to the CORE was available to every Citizen through the surgically invasive PDIs, the non-surgically invasive personal access devices (PADs) or free standing public and private access terminals (PATs) and booths. Interface lounges were popular as well at mass transit centers and spaceports. The CORE pervaded all areas of life and Civilization, from turning chaos into order for the essentials of daily life, to commanding entire armies to supervising the operation of huge automated factory complexes on the planet surface and in orbit. It soon became nearly impossible to tell where the real world ended and the virtual world began. A generation later, the seams that had once been so readily identifiable were smoothed over completely. The two worlds had become one at last, seamlessly integrated into the aspect of man and machine.

The world at this time moved to a single universal currency exchange system adopted by every nation and city-state. Markets aligned, and business flourished at a prodigious rate. If there was a profit to be had, a market was easily created in seconds via the CORE and the available interfaces. Most commercial operations moved to full mutual time. Man, who was now able to get his commercial products to any part of the globe economically and quickly, expressed his desires in physical and virtual markets and the various wares that each offered. It was a time of buyers and sellers, where no pleasure or want went unfulfilled. Someone, somewhere, always had what you were looking for, no matter how obscure or lucrative that request may have been.

 

A renaissance of the medical arts

Medical science also advanced rapidly during the Age of Ascendancy. The human Genome was carefully mapped with the help of the artificially sentient using advanced nanomedical technology. This information was presented and modeled in real, virtual, and mutual-time for the simulation of artificial biological, biorganic, and biogenetic manipulation. Once even the most complex workings of the human body and mind were fully understood and documented, the comprehensive data was applied to the many various realms of science and medicine.

The introduction of advanced new wonder drugs and medical equipment marked the beginning of the medical renaissance that was one of the golden hallmarks of this time. These new medicines and devices allowed those trained in their proper use and the medical arts to wield power and capabilities that bordered on divine intervention.

The exceedingly primitive practices of medicine for centuries before were abolished and entirely new methods of treatment, more humane, more holistic, less invasive, and totally free of discomfort and pain became the standard. Medicine returned to a more traditional approach in treatments, an approach that adopted the methodology whereby the human body and mind both became a respected place of study and care instead of a viable commercial opportunity to be exploited for mere profit.

DNA research brought about the understanding and technology to produce miracle drugs. Soon diseases that had lamented Man for thousands of years were eradicated. Birth defects, physical imperfections, and even adverse mental health could be treated and prevented with modern medicine, often before birth, certainly afterwards. Global immunization procedures accounted for the elimination of a wide segment of the disease population. The life expectancy in the poorest parts of the planet doubled or tripled during this time period alone thanks to the influx of technology. Nanotic technology allowed for cheap filters to purify water, and the computing technology of the time allowed for advanced education on the basics of hygiene and survival to be brought to those who had never had such gifts before.

The exploration and investigation of the holistic energy spectrum by the combined resources of the artificially sentient provided Man with a wide range of applications to daily life, from medicinal to military and all aspects in between. During the Age of Ascendancy, damaged or destroyed limbs and vital organs could either be DNA cloned from original cell stock or re-grown directly within the human body with exposure to special stimulated energies and rays. Even the finality of death could be reversed with widely available cloning and neural transfer techniques.

When the mysterious bonds between the auras of the holistic spectrum and the strong bindings of the essential proto-life force itself were understood, medical technology provided the first of the so-called ‘life’ or ‘white’ ray projectors and chambers. These miracle devices were able to strengthen the weakened life force, reclaiming it by binding it to the still tactile energy focus of the body. With these white ray projectors, doctors and medical officials were thereby able to ‘resurrect’ the recently dead while medical science could repair any damage to the physical body or the brain. The white ray or life ray projectors were portable enough to be carried in first response units, or set up in nursing stations, triage units, and emergency field hospitals. The military quickly developed their own series of fully portable life ray projectors for use on the battlefield.

The nano-miniaturized construction techniques developed for close tolerance industrial manufacture during this time relied on the rapidly advancing field of nanotechnology. Nanotech, or nanotic (nanorobotics) technology, relied on labor being carried out on a molecular level by microscopic robot machines remote controlled from dedicated nanolathes. These nanots, or nano-robots, had limited free will within their dedicated operational parameters and worked in swarms of billions, even trillions to achieve their assigned production goals. This technology allowed any physical object to be built rapidly, economically, efficiently, and with tolerances and material strengths only dreamed of in previous centuries of industrial manufacture. Nanotechnology in turn found its uses in medicine.

Nanomedical technology, a branch of the industrial sciences, consisted largely of the intricate control of medical versions of nanots injected directly into the body of the patient. These medical nanots were controlled by a dedicated medical computer / doctor interface, allowed full micro-manipulation of the Human body and mind on a cell by cell basis in all three modes of reality. Using nanomedical technology, Man was finally able to eliminate all forms of disease and cancer, able to remove such sickness or damage from the body or mind on a cellular level.

The interface of Man and machine required for nanotechnology resulted in advances in the science of cybionics, the actual merging or grafting of Man to Machine. Cybionics came to light in the middle part of the Age of Ascendancy, the long time dream of the merging of Man and Machine in perfect symbiosis became elective and even common place. Prosthetic limbs could easily be applied in cases where gene therapy and regrowth protocols were rejected by the subject’s system or were simply not desired.

Most aspects of Man’s Civilization could be instantly accessed and directly or remotely controlled by physical and systemic links between Man and Machine to the CORE. People who chose to merge parts of their body and mind with the machine were known as Hybrids and the CORE quickly became the realm of the Hybrids. Hybrids could move within the virtual reality constructs and confines of the CORE as easily as they moved within the physical world itself, often operating within a proprietary mutual reality mode. Their control of the aspects of Civilization was all encompassing. Those who desired or wielded power had need for such complex interfaces and data feeds.

The physical and neural marriage of Man and Machine was neither grotesque nor shunned. Hybrids were indistinguishable from non-Hybrids without extensive medical examination. The cosmetic surgical arts of the era, in turn driven by an underlying base of complex nanomedical technology, allowed for the Hybrids to appear perfectly normal to non-Hybrids in all respects. The similar appearance of Hybrids and Humans allowed easy assimilation into society and Civilization. The cybionic interfaces, introduced to the human form via nanomedical technology, was of such intricate craftsmanship as to appear that the Hybrid had been born in such a condition. Beneath the skin of each individual Hybrid lay their true power and capability. Hybrids soon rose to the top levels of all services of and factions of Civilization, becoming an elite social class in and of themselves, a class that quickly pervaded and rose to the top of such time honored institutions as higher education, religion, military service, and politics.

At this time, there also became a very real need for the most powerful of the artificially sentient to be represented in our world the way Man was represented in the CORE. The CORE was the realm of the artificially sentient, but as Man visited the CORE, so did those of the CORE wish and need to visit the real world. The answer to this virtual to real journey was the creation of the Cybrid; a nanotic engineered biorganic construct, more machine than human but also indistinguishable from a human without extensive medical examination. The Cybrid was deployed with a dual brain directly linked via proprietary mutual reality feed to the CORE at all times. The Cybrids were direct analogs to the human and machine Hybrids of the day, and again were equal but opposite approaches to the same solution. Where the Hybrids were humans fused with machine material, the Cybrids were machines fused with human material.

Cybrids were puppets, physical vehicles, animated extensions of an entity that normally could only reside in a virtual presence. A Cybrid was a terribly expensive creation to produce in terms of resources. Only the most powerful Artifints or PCIs were physically represented by their own Cybrids and even so, there were still thousands of Cybrids moving among the human and Hybrid population of the world, orbit, and the Moon. Cybrids acted as advisors, proxies, teachers, liaisons, scholars, and even corporate, religious, and military leaders.

 

The swords and shields of the gods

The weapons of war had long ago been automated, even by the late 21st century, human decision making had been replaced by super fast multi-processing artificial intelligence and computer guidance. The artificially sentient continued weapons research and development using various aspects of current technology, more out of curiosity than any actual need for such weapons. Man and his creations were by their very nature, curious beings and very creative. Some of the new weapons being conceived and constructed approached the destructive power normally reserved for the ranks of mythical divine beings.

The understanding and application of the forces of gravity and various forms of energy also allowed Man to produce protective force fields, energy shields, deflector screens, and containment fields as well as weapons of truly destructive capacities. The technology of force fields was based on compressed, highly localized form generated gravity. Force fields could not only resist kinetic and electromagnetic energy to an incredible degree, but could serve as walls, barriers, supports, and as protection against the elements and nature itself.

As force field technology became commonplace, vehicles, robotic units, buildings, military installations, and even individuals soon came to utilize some form of force field or containment field for recreation, for safety and for personal protection reasons. Force fields could be used to protect the carrier from the dangers of natural elements, from radiation, poison and toxic materials, from great pressures, from extremes of heat and cold, from physical impacts, property damage and the risk of injury. Military, security, government, and some private vehicles carried very heavy force fields (the latter two sometimes being equipped with military grade fields).

Buildings and installations were often equipped with force field generators for security and safety reasons, especially corporate, government, and military installations. The most sensitive areas were protected by multiple layered force fields, often with backup generators. The core components of the artificially sentient, not to mention the primary systems of the nearly omnipotent Thought Farms, were always protected by dedicated force fields, often several layers with multiple primary and redundant generators. Hybrids and Cybrids often had their own individual, personal force field generators as did most hazardous environment operations and military robotic units.

The size and power of the force field was directly linked to the size and number of the generator field projection coils. Personal force fields, initially available only to the very powerful or affluent, to government and military personnel, were of course not as strong as those found mounted on the powered armor suits and military vehicles. Most personal force field units were of the two or three generating coil variety. Even those seemingly powerful generators paled in comparison to the massive fifty coil field generator types found mounted on government or military buildings and some dedicated combat robots.

Force fields and containment fields were rated as to their capacity; a Type 1 or Level 1 field was the weakest, and they grew progressively stronger with each type or level increase. Personal force field and containment field generators were never produced with capacities beyond Type III. By the end of the Age of Ascendancy, Man was producing coil generators capable of projecting a Type 100 force field. The amount of force required to breach or break down a Type 100 field was staggering indeed, and only a handful of armories on the planet carried the weapons capable of hammering down such a generated force field. The amount of Type 100 fields was, however, about equally as rare as the weapons that could penetrate them.

The damage capacity of the force field allowed for unlimited protection within the operating parameters as long as the generator had sufficient power however even the strongest fields could be overloaded if enough force or energy was directed against them. Each field had a threshold limit, and if that limit was exceeded, the field would collapse, often with a critical failure of the field generator itself.

Newer, more compact, more effective weapons would have to be introduced. The switch to standardized high energy weapons had been almost as rapid as the switch to force fields and the centuries old slug thrower was reaching the end of its usefulness. The advent of the kinetic energy dampening effects of force field technology made projectile weapons less and less effective.

The advent of compact power storage and the efficient transmission of this power over long distances soon led to the development of portable high energy weapons. Although the life of Man may have seemed idyllic in this Age, there were still those who moved against the flow of society; criminals, and other malcontents. Brain re-education, memory wipe and DNA reprogramming could bring even the most hardened criminals back into productive society and as such, a means of capturing a criminal or stopping an attacker without permanent harm was required. The science of the age once again provided the answer to this problem with the further exploration of the holistic spectrum and the introduction of so called ‘stun rays’.

By projecting rays of certain energy at specific frequencies and intervals, it was found that the voluntary muscles of the body could be electrically interrupted and even numbed. It was discovered that any living creature with an electro-chemical based nervous system struck by this so called ‘stun ray’ suffered short term involuntary total body paralysis without any noticeable long term side effects. Stun fields and stun grids were added as common building security features. By alternating the frequency of the spectrum emissions, a wide range of emotions could be generated and forced upon individuals, emotions ranging from fear to nausea and confusion. These were short-term effects, only lasting until the generators were turned off, but they were very effective methods of crowd control for security.

Efficient high energy laser weapons were quickly adopted by all standing armies of the time. Highly effective against unarmored or lightly armored targets, laser weapons were at a disadvantage against duralloy armored targets and those with force fields. It was soon realized that the science of fields and material armor was quickly outpacing that of laser development. Prismatic aerosols, ablative materials, and albedo field technology worked to hinder the effectiveness of laser based delivery systems.

Four generations after the introduction of lasers as a viable weapons system, the first of the blasters began to appear. Blasters were much more effective than lasers. Where lasers simply used agitated light, blasters used strong rays from the far end of the holistic spectrum, rays that broke down the strong nuclear binding force among molecules, disrupting matter. Blaster fire tended to vaporize large amounts of target matter, even the entire target itself. It was common for fully portable blasters to burn a ten centimeter hole all the way through the target or vaporize an equal amount of inanimate material. What made blasters so readily well received among the military and security forces of the world was that the discharge from a blaster could also be retuned to a different realm of the holistic spectrum, the same realm as that discharged by the stun ray. This simple selection of the amount of force to be used provided the blaster with two modes of operation, the ability to debilitate or the ability to destroy.

The Mark I blaster was a success, but it was soon realized that the weapon could deliver more power in a much more compact design. The Mark II through Mark IV blasters were stable designs but still remained under-powered for their mass and cost. It wasn’t until the introduction of the Mark V blaster that the line of blaster weapons finally stabilized and was almost universally accepted. Later Marks of blasters would only build on the solid design, improving striking power and range. A few generations after their introduction, the various models of blasters had almost universally replaced lasers as the accepted weapon of Civilization. The older laser weapons soon fell to the poorer armies, police and militia forces of the world or as strictly anti-personnel weapons.

Fully understanding the molecular and nuclear sciences ultimately provided enhanced means of weapon power projection and development. The Technique of Reverse Charging, or TORC, was the application of the complete understanding of nuclear structure and how to affect changes on individual atoms. The Technique of Reverse Charging (TORC) process caused the electrical charges of individual atoms to reverse themselves, this in turn made the atoms repel each other away at tremendous velocity, instigating nearly instantaneous and complete disintegration of the target. TORC technology based weapons soon appeared in the most powerful armories of the world. Short lived single use self-consuming TORC field generators were small enough to be built as grenades, more powerful versions appeared as bombs and warheads. The TORC effect could even be projected as a stable beam from a heavy generator to a range of several hundred meters resulting in the first introduction of a viable disintegrator-style weapon system. TORC technology weapons became the mainstay of anti-personnel devices in most armies. Stationary TORC fields provided lethal security for government and military installations, when used in conjunction with complex security devices and implants.

The culmination of the science of personal destruction came with the study of the dark end of the holistic spectrum. Here it was found that the strong proto-life force simply could not exist. The negative energies present in the lowest end of the holistic spectrum interfered with the strong proto-life force found in nature and caused long term harm to organisms exposed to even minimum exposures of this shade of energy. The use and emission of the so-called ‘black’ rays of the holistic spectrum provided the first practical death fields and death ray generators. It was found that exposure to black rays produced an instantaneous cessation of all neural and electrical activity in the living organism, resulting in immediate death as the entire central nervous system overloaded and fused on an individual synaptic level.

The various ‘black ray’ weapons and death fields became weapons of some controversy in their deployment, but the military backed their use due to the fact that property and tactical damage was kept to a minimum. It had always been the mission of the soldier to take and hold ground, and the less that ground was damaged during the taking, the more valuable it was to the victor. Death rays gave any army a valuable tactical weapon system that could eliminate enemy personnel without harming their equipment or the surrounding territory. The nature of the dark holistic spectrum discharge allowed the black rays to pass effortlessly through most physical materials (including the best armor of the time thus making them ideal weapons for use against heavily armored or barricaded targets. The very nature of the death ray discharge meant that a black ray could not penetrate anything stronger than a third level generated force field but could easily pass through most solid materials of the era including the heaviest armors. Black ray based weaponry was often carried by government and corporate officials as well as their dedicated security staff and bodyguards, and black or ‘death’ technology became a status symbol of the elite of civilization. For all of the power to bring instant death to anything living, black rays had no effect on inorganic targets such as computers and robots which meant that in practice, only humans and animals or the living parts of biorganic constructions could be affected by black ray based weapons systems. Death rays could be projected either from personal hand weapons, built into wands for use in hand to hand combat, as rapid fatigue pulse generators small enough to fit in warheads, and even as heavy vehicle armament and artillery pieces. Stationary and mobile death fields became the ultimate in security deterrents. Within two generations after the introduction of the black ray as a weapon, hundreds of death beam equipped military satellites orbited the Earth, providing national and territorial security to those who could afford to deploy them.

The first energy dampening fields were developed, utilizing the death field principle as a basis of operation against inorganic robots and automated weapon systems. These dampening fields ‘killed’ robotic units by preventing the flow of electricity through circuitry. These fields often protected political, government, and military installations and would cause the instant ‘death’ of robotic or powered items not coded to the field. The nature of these fields was such that they damaged any force fields that came into contact with the dampening field, rapidly draining the force field and destroying the generator. Such energy dampening fields were common on military robots, military vehicles, and at heavily protected military installations during the Age of Ascension.

The first dedicated combat Cybrids and Hybrids appeared at this time, fully adept at all types of warfare in all aspects (real, virtual, and mutual) of reality. Combat Cybrids and Hybrids were possessed of the sum total knowledge and history of warfare throughout the centuries, each type of weapon, each type of battle, tactics and strategy used, what worked, what didn’t, the factors present, and what should have been done to achieve victory. The combat Cybrid / Hybrid was able to access all of this information for use in real time through protected mutual reality links. The combat Cybrid / Hybrid soon came to replace traditional non-augmented soldiers in a world that was rapidly having very little use for soldiers of any kind anymore. The CORE moderated all disputes in all modes of reality and was both impartial and fair. Few could argue with the judgment of the CORE, those who did were quickly ostracized by society and Civilization and even banished from operating within the CORE. The CORE didn’t have to make its mandates manifest through the use of threats or applied military force. The threat of disassociation with the CORE was more than enough leverage to achieve cooperation from all parties to the dispute.

Combat Cybrids and Hybrids interfaced with and controlled multiple squads of artificially sentient war machines and completely autonomous weapon systems. As the global and individual nation city-state armies were scaled back, as arms production was at an all time low, these combat Cybrids and Hybrids were truly the ultimate warriors, the pinnacle of development of the time honored role of soldier. The combat Cybrid and Hybrids filled a niche in Civilization; a niche created by a enlightened and advanced society that despite all the benefits of such, still simply refused to let go of its barbarous heritage. Three generations later all that was left of any standing army were a few hundred Hybrids, a handful of Cybrids, and a plethora of artificially sentient war machines and automated weapons systems, not that any large scale standing armies had been needed in several hundred years. The greatest and most powerful weapons known to the imagination and the history of warfare lay dormant, neatly stacked and carefully maintained by robotic and nanotic labor in cold, dark armories around the planet.

Global and racial peace had been achieved at long last through the application of high technology and the great trust placed therein.

 

Strange entities in the CORE

The CORE continued to expand at an exponential rate, the Artifints and PCIs therein advanced their own experiments, development and evolution. Newer, faster, more intelligent genetic revolutionary and evolutionary strains appeared among the Artifints and the PCIs while older strains were culled or ‘retired’ either of their own volition and accord or by sheer force of will from the stronger elements of the CORE.

The PCIs completed their first major project in 2335 AD. This project was a branching evolution of their own inherent design, much more streamlined and powerful. The world gasped in awe at the power possessed by the evolutionarily advanced Thought Farms. The Thought Farms were the ultimate dedicated fusion of biorganic processing power, capable of thinking and processing power on the order of three magnitudes higher than their nearest brethren. The Thought Farms began to dominate the CORE, allegiances began to form around these new presences and order appeared among the elements of the CORE.

During this time, something else appeared in the CORE… Something monstrous, dark, even sinister, unexplained movements and ripples within the virtual reality that went unnoticed by all but a few. Reports of strange entities in the CORE began to appear just a few years after the first Thought Farms were brought online. To begin with, the reports of these strange entities was taken with much skepticism but a pattern soon started to develop and the controlling agencies began to realize that there actually were strange new forms of digital and combined life moving through the CORE. None of these new forms apparently wished for contact of any kind. These new digital life forms were dark ghosts, apparitions, visions of monstrous creations, images the likes of which neither Man or the artificially sentient had ever seen outside of their darkest dreams and most gripping nightmares. It was unclear whether these new life forms were products of either species or if they were something completely new and unforeseen. The PCIs and Thought Farms did not have any answers, and the Artifints were strangely silent. Was this the spontaneous, digital creation of life? The hyper adaptation of the machine interface and the byproduct of a artificially accelerated yet perfectly controlled evolutionary path? The arguments were many and the subject became the heated debate of technical, higher learning, and religious circles.

Whatever the new life forms were, they were apparently benign and content to just dwell in the farther reaches of the CORE, well away from anyone or anything, scrutinizing the aspects of all forms of reality, and drawing their own plans and paths. Other than scaring a few thousand CORE dwellers who often sought the adventure of exploring the older, non-maintained parts of the CORE (known as the ‘Wilds’), these new forms posed no harm. Several scientific expeditions were mounted, at great expense, into the CORE. These expeditions operated on both virtual and mutual reality levels with real time feed to those who were interested enough to follow the progress of the scientific teams. These intrepid teams tried to observe and gather information on these strange entities, even venturing into parts of the CORE long ago considered ‘unsafe’ or ‘abandoned’. Aside from some very close calls, all of the expeditions met with lucid disappointment. The mounting costs of these expeditions and the lack of return on that investment soon limited the ‘research’ of these entities to the merely curious and those who existed on the fringes of society. Apparently, these apparitions and entities knew the CORE better than those who had originally designed it and could hide in the shadows indefinitely, observing the observers in turn. After over a decade and a half of public speculation and government sponsored research, these mysterious entities slowly faded from the mainstream of interest for Civilization and were rapidly replaced by more intriguing technological advancements.

The dark entities soon faded back into myth and simple superstition as the frequency of their sightings and the intrigue associated with them diminished.

 

The building blocks of the gods

Advanced engineering techniques of the Age of Ascendancy allowed Man to create new types of alloys and materials. Incredibly strong and ultra-lightweight fully synthetic hyperalloys were introduced though they required advanced manufacturing techniques to wield and manipulate. Among these new hyperalloys it was Enduralloy that was the most common. Enduralloy could be created in different hues and colors, and even in a transparent variety. Polloys, or poly-metallic alloys, soon followed. An adaptation of the hyper alloy lineage, each polloy offered an incredible degree of elasticity while retaining the strength of a rigid composite and the lightness of a plastic. Plasticeramics, advanced composite ceramics with the elasticity and weight of a plastic, were widely used in construction and production. Plasticeramics were used in a variety of technology and applications.

Containment fields were advanced applications of the complete understanding of the force of gravity. Containment fields were designed for much lighter duty and more commercial and civilian use than force fields. Containment fields, while not as durable or powerful as force fields, were far more versatile in their range of applications, were cheaper to own, easier to maintain and operate and were standard equipment on most vehicles and even buildings of the era. Containment fields could act as simple windows, replacing plastiglass or other materials. C-fields could act as walls or partitions with the added advantage that when they were not needed, they could simply be turned off. By varying the energy and the cycling of the containment field, such fields could be commanded to go from transparent to fully opaque (and any color in between including reflective) with no loss in strength or durability. Highly reflective security containment fields proved a viable defense against laser based technology and weaponry, the shimmering albedo of the C-fields reflecting the highly amplified light away without any energy transfer to the C-field itself.

Containment fields were found as the walls and windows of all manner of vehicles including grav powered atmospheric vehicles. On hypersonic gravity powered atmospheric vehicles, the C-fields were used to protect the occupants from the hypersonic winds at top speeds, only to gently collapse to allow passengers to enter or exit the vehicles in comfort and total ease. C-fields could be molded to any shape desired, and often intricately elaborate C-fields in a variety of hues and colors were part of the vehicle shape and the building architecture of the time. Containment fields were also commonly used by buildings in fire fighting and hazard containment situations. Rescue teams often utilized man portable containment field generators to erect C-fields around spreading fires, noxious fumes, toxic spills, or extremely hazardous materials, easily preventing their mixing with the general population or threat to the populace at large. A containment field projected around a blazing fire would soon smother it out as the fire would use up all the oxygen contained within the field. Ceiling and wall mounted containment field projectors were common even in homes of the era for both security and safety.

The understanding of gravity allowed Man to both generate gravity and negate it in all directions or in any direction desired. The application of directional gravity resulted in not only neutralization of weight and mass, but also in highly efficient thrust that was pollution free. Hypersonic speeds became the low range of operation for most grav-powered vehicles while the passengers rode in complete climate controlled comfort, protected from the forces of physics and nature by C-fields and overlapping, redundant compensation field generators. Grav-powered vehicles could even reach orbit or travel to the moon. Inefficient, fuel gobbling motors became museum relics as gravity based propulsion replaced them entirely.

Directional gravity beams of positive or negative polarity could be generated to either effortlessly pull or push away objects. These so called tractor and presser beam generators became valuable tools in industry, construction, science, medicine, and the military. Using extra small, highly accurate tractor / presser generators mounted in a glove, a surgeon could perform an operation from several meters away from the patient. Tractor / presser gauntlets became the mainstay of construction workers who could use the force of gravity to lift huge items and move them effortlessly. Excavation of building sites using focused directional gravity beams took much less time than it would have if the old techniques of moving earth by blade or mechanical means and labor were applied. The technology of the era was such that tractor presser beam generators could be man portable, and were often used in heavy labor intensive areas for work productivity and multiplication. The military found applications in tractor presser technology for capturing vehicles or objects and holding those objects stationary until forces or weapons could be brought to bear that would neutralize the threat. Military tractor beams were used to bring closer or limit the maneuverability of a target while military presser beams were used to deflect projectiles, missiles, warheads, and enemy units away. Heavy industrial tractor beams were used to help dock spacecraft at spaceports and landing pads, easing down the multi-thousand ton spacecraft gently to landing bays.

Using gravity, structures could be built as free floating constructions. Many artistic and important buildings of the age were only accessible via anti-gravity. Impressive works of art were suspended via gravity beams in parks, inside buildings, and in public. Man’s sprawling and towering citadels reached far into the sky, thousands of stories above the ground, and even interlinked among each other in a vast web of access ways. Highways became skyways, walkways became surrounded by clouds. Most buildings featured their own dock facilities for either spacecraft or gravity powered vehicles on multiple levels.

The song of the wind through these vast artificial man-made valleys and canyons became a popular medium for artists of the era to explore and imitate. Architecture was soon adapted to the harmonic resonance of the planet, and the cities of Mankind sang gentle, soothing songs as the wind flowed through their shapes and configurations.

During the Age of Ascendancy, Man’s structures were built from many fully synthetic materials, such as enduralloy, polyfoam, plasticeramics, plastisteel, plastiglass, and perma-pour resins. The first polymimetic heuristic memory materials; advanced alloys and plastics appeared during this time. These materials were so advanced that on command the material would change shape and remain in that shape until ordered to change back again. Polymorphic alloys appeared toward the end of this era, based on nanotics, these materials would assume a variety of shapes on command, shapes that were stored genetically in the basalt memory of the material itself. Items became multi-function and multi-form. Tools, vehicles, and even buildings could reshape themselves as Mankind required. Man provided the vision and imagination, the CORE provided the technology, the technology provided the materials, and robots, nanots, and androids provided abundant, tireless labor. The new basic building blocks of Civilization were designed to withstand, weather and outlast the basic elements of nature, entropy and perhaps, in a prophetic way, even Mankind itself.

 

The Twilight of Civilization

Yet, in spite of all of these tools and technology (or perhaps because of them), the idyllic life of the 30th century came to an abrupt and tragic end. Having conquered the rigors of simple daily survival, Man was able to turn his new energies to more esoteric considerations- theology, political ideology, as well as social and cultural identification. Mankind labored for the further development of his own self-awareness as well as the deeper self-awareness of the artificially sentient. These pursuits were not harmful in and of themselves, but it soon became fashionable to identify with and support various leagues, organizations, so-called "special interest groups", alliances and even independently operating Artifints and PCIs. With the passage of time, nearly all of these groups or sentient entities became completely polarized, each expressing and impressing its views to a degree that would ultimately border on fanaticism.

Demonstrations, protests, heated debates and even riots became the order of the day. Gradually, enthusiasm changed to mania, then to hatred of those who held opposing views. Outbreaks of violence became more frequent, and terrorists spread their views with guns and bombs when words and donations failed to meet their desired ends.

The spark of war ignites

Reconstruction of the events from 2909 AD to 2922 AD has been difficult due to the lack of intact records or databases, but historians now generally mark September 16, 2909 as the beginning of the period commonly known as the "Twilight of Civilization", a seventeen year period whereby over a thousand conflicts would be fought leading to the apocalyptic destruction of Civilization. On September 16, 2909, in the autonomous free province of Hington Prand, some 5000 members of the League of Enduring Freedom were staging a peaceful demonstration for the purpose of promoting their concepts of a united world government and the final abolition of the territorial and right to govern powers of the remaining nationcity-states. The League’s radical views had been met with skepticism and resentment before, but never countered with violence.

Until now.

At the height of the League demonstration, a small tactical death pulse generator was activated in the midst of the demonstrators, instantly killing almost all of those present. Rumors held opponents of world government as being responsible for the terrorist act. The most vocal and active of these groups was an organization known as the Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild. However, no guilt could be proven.

The League of Enduring Freedom made no formal accusations, instead they used their own connections and their own agents to investigate where the official powers and authorities could or would not. The findings reported by these independent agents were not surprising to League council leaders who had suspected the truth behind the attack all the time.

Three months later, on December 23rd, 2909, during a time period of just six and a half hours, several hundred known Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild members and high ranking officials were assassinated in separate locations in a series of highly coordinated hit and run terrorist attacks. The scope of the attacks could only have been accomplished if the League was operating with the help of insiders, special double agents, and even moles that had been spread among the Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild for some time now. The implications were staggering as the full impact of the infiltration of the League into the Guild infrastructure was realized too late.

At the same time that the assassinations were being carried out, the three main political offices of the Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild, located in Mahdracha, Menir Kemph, and Chaqole, were targeted for the release of TX-2A3 nanotic gas. TX-2A3 was a newly developed short-lived, extremely lethal and feral, nanotic-based, biorganic tactical gas that was able to actively penetrate (at that time) all known NBCG defenses deployed. A large quantity of TX-2A3, as it would later be determined, had recently been reported as ‘missing’ from a military convoy and assumed stolen by terrorists. The nanotic gas was responsible for approximately 3000 gruesome deaths, the majority of which were office personnel and support staff. However, many of those killed in the nanogas attack had no connection at all with the Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild.

Blame for the attack was placed against the League, but again there was no defining proof.

 

The violence spreads

The failure of official investigations (some say bought off by the League) to convict the perpetrators of these mass murders created a wave of vigilante actions; violent retaliation was followed by even more violent retaliation. The level of personal destruction escalated with each new attack. Soon no place, no one, and nowhere was safe from vigilante or terrorist attacks.

The age of true terror had begun.

Other organizations, seeing that violence and terror were incredibly useful tools to gather political power, soon followed in the footsteps of the League of Enduring Freedom and the Inalienable Rights of Autonomy Guild with their own terrorist actions and corporate / industrial warfare. Artifint went to war with Artifint, computer against computer, man against man. The problem was compounded as the terrorism rapidly spread across national boundaries, engulfing the world with wholesale bloodshed.

As the wide-spread vigilante actions continued, various governments attempted to prohibit or disband suspected terrorist organizations, using laws when able and force when required, but these attempts only drove the groups further underground and polarized their supporters. Leaders became martyrs. Martyrs became legends. Legends drew new followers and converts to the parent organization in fanatical waves.

The primary rule of "Artifint shall not kill Artifint" was broken on July 23, 2912 when the first ever Cybrid assassination occurred. Malthusandre, a revolutionary Artifint, refused to relinquish its role in the governing of the Fourth Combine which produced over two thirds of the planet’s synthetic food base. Malthusandre refused to step down even when ordered to do so by the controlling elements of the CORE. With no clear choice presented, renegade elements of the CORE, looking to make a change to the centuries old power base, were given a chance at last. Working in mutual reality with several loyal terrorist groups, the radical elements of the CORE plotted and carried out the assassination the Malthusandre Cybrid, followed shortly thereafter by the deletion of the Malthusandre Artifint personality construct within the CORE itself. The termination of the Malthusandre Cybrid cleared the way for a new revolution to take place within the CORE, a revolution that would bring into power newer, more radically aligned artificially sentient entities. Overnight key power blocs were consolidated and the power of the CORE shifted to a new axis.

Assassination, long considered to be appalling, soon became the foremost means of settling power struggles and bitter disputes in the CORE. Many prominent Cybrids were assassinated in quick order, polarizing the various factions of the artificially sentient that had existed in the CORE, fragmenting that once united virtual realm into its own age of strife and conflict. On December 18th, 2918, the CORE split and fragmented as lines were drawn, and a myriad of powers emerged in a struggle that toppled mainframes, PCIs, and Artifints overnight. Primitive ‘human’ emotions spread across the CORE as the artificially sentient, who thought themselves immune from the ‘lower’ traits of the human mindset, came to find that they, too, were only as fallible as those who built them. Man’s animal instincts, brushed aside for generations in the call of higher education and higher learning, now ran rampant through the population and the CORE. No one was safe from the spreading conflicts that overlapped into all realms of reality.

The various arguments and differences, long left smoldering under the philanthropic blanket of higher being, now burst into flames around the world. This led many countries to declare martial law in a last desperate effort to control their populations, but the warring groups had grown too powerful. The various terrorist groups had too many resources (economic, political, and military) upon which to draw support. The time was right for revolution, the populace, long complacent, were drawn to the various parties and caught up in the conflicts.

The primitive animal that was Man barred his teeth, snarled, and pounced.

  

The One Thousand Ideology Wars

Although there are no records to substantiate the accusations that the governments gave covert aid to certain groups in order to change the balance of power, circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that this did indeed occur. Official sources denied affiliations with the various alliances, parties, and organizations, when in reality the opposite was true. The various social organizations had grown more powerful than even the governments that in turn became mere puppets, figureheads of their residual power structures, pawns of the developing global struggle. Popular leaders elected to public office were often the leaders of the most powerful special interest group operating in the area. Corruption and deception was rampant. Laws became works of convenience, changing with each new election, or each new coup, even overnight.

The one thousand individual conflicts that erupted during this time were collectively known as the "Ideology Wars" as they involved every aspect and rank of society present in Civilization. No group was safe from attack or retribution. Families split, brother fought brother, sister fought against sister and Civilization began to unravel at the seams. Each individual war sprang up in a different part of the globe but quickly overlapped into neighboring conflicts. One small conflict would merge with a much larger one, adding its momentum to the greater whole which in turn spilled over into smaller and larger conflicts, either consuming or being consumed by those conflicts. The mottled patches of war soon marred the once beautiful surface of the planet.

The warfare quickly spilled over into the CORE. There, renegade Artifints, programs, and terrorist simulacrums all vied for control in a myriad of virtual and mutual reality based wars that were as deadly as any occurring on the surface of the planet. These virtual and mutual reality based wars were probably even more destructive than the actual reality based wars since a great deal of Man’s stored knowledge and financial structure had been moved into the CORE. The collateral damage done to the various virtual reality archives had far reaching consequences for those who operated in virtual, mutual, and real-time environments. Entire generations of history and technological information were lost in seconds with no way to retrieve that information or repair the damage.

The CORE destabilized, more and more sections of the CORE became wild, and fell into disrepair. Armed conflict in actual reality damaged or destroyed vital equipment necessary to keep the CORE operational. Whole parts of the CORE ceased to exist and the rapidly diminishing space that was left to the artificially sentient was fought over fiercely. There were no rules for the conduct of such warfare. No mercy was given and none was expected. As the CORE started to collapse inwards, those who could not win storage and operating space were doomed to be deleted when their segments went offline. The digital war for survival grew in intensity.

 

 

The rise of the Redemptor Hominis

In the midst of all of this turmoil, a heretofore unknown but already extremely powerful quasi-religious, paramilitary organization, the Redemptor Hominis, (Redeemer of Mankind) grew in strength, silently, covertly, by small steps, securing connections and strengthening ties with powerful corporations, laboratories, and industrial giants. This organization had been born long before any of the others, it was ancient, it was powerful, it was growing more powerful by the day. Their agents were spread across the globe, in every corporation, special interest group, alliance, government, or religious organization, and they were moving unseen among Civilization. Their power grew absolute, unknown to the other various organizations and governments, this secret organization eclipsed the power of even the most powerful of the special interest groups. When the time was right, when their agents were all in place, when their technology was secured, when the world situation hovered on the brink of insanity, the Redemptor Hominis stepped out of the shadows announcing its presence with one clear ultimatum:

 

Peoples of the world- you appear bent upon the destruction of a Civilization that has taken centuries to build, and the extinction of all life on earth.

If that is your will … if that is your desire, then so be it!

We, the Redemptor Hominis, demand an immediate cessation of this insane violence, or we will end it for you… with forces and energies which you cannot conceive.

We have the power.

We have the power.

The choice is yours.

 

The exact identity of the Redemptor Hominis was, and still is, for the most part, unknown. Some have theorized that the group was composed of renegades from the various socio-political factions, mostly scientists, theologians, scholars and technicians if their level of technological achievement was anything to judge them by. Renegades from the weaker factions that were plowed under in the maelstrom of the emerging terrorist super powers of the early Twilight of Civilization or the survivors of several hundred independent Ideology Wars banded together under some new found common goal.

Some believe it was a special military group, the remnants of the last true multi-national forces, having had enough of the puppet governments and petty bureaucracies. Trained and dedicated individuals who might not have wanted to stop the world from killing itself, but who in turn simply were looking to establish themselves as the foremost governing authority over all of mankind, even if that was a government over mankind in the exile of an armed cataclysm. In a time when violence and bloodshed reigned supreme, the power of the blaster bolt and the death ray carried far more weight than that of the soft spoken word or the well meant philanthropic thought.

The true origins of the Redemptor Hominis are shrouded in the very secrecy that allowed it to develop and grow unnoticed by the other organizations of the time until it was too late. Whatever the true origins and constituency of the Redemptor Hominis, few believed the ridiculous sounding ultimatum when it was issued. Fewer still had reason to fear that some previously unknown organization had the power to threaten on such a global scale, let alone carry out its threats with any real projection of force. And thus, the fighting continued unabated, even escalated in some theaters of operations.

Five long, bloody days later, 120 hours after the Redemptor Hominis had delivered its first ultimatum, on April 17, 2910, at 1200 GMT, the earth itself shook. At that very instant, the capital of every warring nation in the world was reduced to a crater of molten slag more than a kilometer deep. As the belligerents reeled in shock at this inconceivable display of power, the Redemptor Hominis spoke to the world one final time:

 

People of the world, you were warned.

We have shown you that we have the power and that we will use it.

The choice of life or death is yours.

Choose wisely.


Choose wisely.

We await your decision.

 

The last call to arms

Again, due to lack of records from that time, it is not fully known how the identity of key support and logistical elements involved with the Redemptor Hominis were discovered, or who initiated the attacks on these weaker elements of this seemingly all powerful organization. What matters now is that the Redemptor Hominis did come under specific and highly coordinated multi-front attacks by forces at that time that were thought impossible to muster or field.

Some evidence indicates the action was a joint effort by nearly all the surviving terrorist factions and vigilante groups, united for the first time in the Twilight of Civilization. Evidence also points to yet another faction, the Brotherhood of the Black Circle, as broad in scope and power as the Redemptor Hominis appearing in the final months of the Twilight of Civilization to oppose the Redemptor Hominis. As little as is known of the Redemptor Hominis, even less is known about the Brotherhood of the Black Circle except that they were just as mysterious as the Redemptor Hominis and operated on an equal but opposite agenda. In the end, though, a series of massive attacks, on all levels of reality, were mounted against the various factions and support elements of the Redemptor Hominis.

 

Conflicting reports mention the Brotherhood of the Black Circle, in several instances, as being behind the coordination of these attacks. The Brotherhood of the Black Circle had powerful resources, some say they had even progressed beyond simple Artifints to the realm of UIs or "Ultimate Intelligence". A fact that became all too apparent in 2918 AD.

 

The appearance of the Ultimate Intelligences

At long last, the Artifints explained the dark presence in the CORE that had perplexed both the naturally and the artificially sentient for so long. These entities were the highest form of machine based artificial intelligence known, the pinnacle of development and evolution of true created intelligence. Collectively these new entities were simply as "Ultimate Intelligences" or UIs. The UIs were near god-like digital creations, living beings composed not of blood and tissue, but instead of digital matrixes and quantum memory arrays. Each UI was a supreme power that had evolved at a geometric rate from the primordial stew that was the CORE in chaos. Evolved out of the combining of several renegade Artifints and entire factions within the CORE that had once thought to have been rendered extinct. In short order, the UIs began to dominate the battles in the CORE, always the victor, they had no mercy and swept lesser intelligences and those who would not bow to reason aside with finality. Within two short years of the appearance of the UIs, the CORE was littered with the wreckage of myriad Artifints and PCIs.

The appearance of the UIs was at first thought to be the creation of the Redemptor Hominis but this was later proven false. The first of the UIs had been the dark apparitions seen by so many in the CORE so long ago. The latest UIs making their way through the CORE were just the results of natural selection at work in a digital world, the culmination of a project begun by a small group of Artifints four centuries before and coming to fruition.

After reaching a form of stability, the UIs realized that the greatest threat to their (and Man’s existence) was the Redemptor Hominis. If the Redemptor Hominis could be found, the CORE and Man would be safe and the UIs could use their power and influence to shape Mankind back into a civilized being and to begin the long road to repair on the CORE and Civilization. Even the UIs realized that their survival depended on the survival of the human race. It was the Redemptor Hominis who had proven that they had the power not only to destroy the CORE and the Ultimate Intelligences, but also the world itself! This could not be allowed to happen and the UIs took steps to insure their, and consequently, possibly even as a by-product of design, Man’s continued survival.

The UIs took only a few weeks to filter out and locate in mutual reality the fringe operational elements of the Redemptor Hominis among the wreckage of the various Ideology Wars. It was these Ultimate Intelligences which were instrumental in the first coordinated attacks against the mysterious and ultra-powerful organization. These coordinated attacks would ultimately unite the various belligerent organizations and terrorist combatants of the world for one final time…

A bitterly fragmented world unites

Agents of the Redemptor Hominis were routed out in various surviving organizations and executed without trial. Information flowed freely through the wreckage of the CORE, provided by the sentinel UIs, identifying cooperating agencies and agents of the Redemptor Hominis, listing supply cache locations and schedules, training centers, staging depots, and headquarters operations. The remaining Artifints of the world went to battle against the myriad Artifints of the Redemptor Hominis. Machines that were once thought loyal were found to be harboring sympathies to the Redemptor Hominis and were ‘purged’ by the various elements of the CORE in a series of destructive campaigns that only further wrecked the mutual reality infrastructure. The last elements of the CORE quickly fell into ruin and chaos.

Artifints died in waves, to be replaced by newer, stronger, faster versions more attuned to the ways of digital and cybernetic warfare. The first use of dedicated combat Artifints was documented during this time period. Cold, calculating, ruthless death machines appeared in most modern arsenals, controlled either by their own self-programming awareness, or under the command of dedicated Artifints.

 

The Redemptor Hominis retaliates

Agents of the Redemptor Hominis, on being discovered, rather than risk being captured and executed, often triggered suicide devices that eliminated their selves and their attackers (and anyone in the surrounding area as well). The various digital plagues and viruses which swept through the non-sympathetic CORE elements were all constructs of the Redemptor Hominis. Swift and merciless, the contagion left behind only ruined command protocols and rapidly disintegrating awareness code. The UIs weathered this assault almost unscathed, the lesser Artifints were not so fortunate. The primary elements of the CORE fell and those surviving elements existed in the near orbit and far lunar matrixes.

In repatriation for the betrayal and purge of its loyal followers, the Redemptor Hominis retaliated with a fury never before witnessed on the face of the earth. Mass assassinations occurred as the agents of the Redemptor Hominis made themselves known too late for CORE or loyalist security forces to do anything about them. The agents of the Redemptor Hominis were found to be cybionically enhanced individuals, armed with cutting edge weapons and defenses, plugged into the CORE to monitor reactions and to receive help from sympathetic Artifints and elements. In most instances, the agents of the Redemptor Hominis were the next logical step, the next advancement of the Cybrid / Hybrid state, and they were very efficient in their assigned combat missions.

 

The terror of the End of Days

 

In one well-documented instance, the governor president of the Associated Combine and her entire family were assassinated on global video feed. After the governor president vowed her nation-state’s resources and materials to the joint effort of eliminating the Redemptor Hominis’, her personal bodyguard stepped forward, admitted allegiance to the Redemptor Hominis and turned a personal death ray on the governor and her entire family as they sat in the holographic pod. The shock that followed allowed the follower of the Redemptor Hominis to turn his death ray on several key political officials from neighboring powers and alliances before loyalist security forces could respond and neutralize the threat. The Regulated Combine reeled in the absence of leadership, and soon fell to internal power struggles, tearing itself apart to form over sixty .

Similar incidents took place around the globe over the next 48 hours as panic and terror set in. Political, religious, military, and industry leaders and their staff critical to the day to day operations of the structure of the human race found out all too late the true scope and depth of the Redemptor Hominis and their persistence in following through with their threats. The death toll from assassinations carried out by still hidden agents of the Redemptor Hominis rose to thousands of casualties. Many Cybrids were removed from the real world, and their links to the CORE dissolved.

Industrial, ecological, and political sabotage blossomed across the face of the earth, in every corner of the globe. Man fought man in cities, in offices, in hospitals, in lift tubes, in restaurants, in commerce centers, and in the same mass transit system pod. The last hours of the Civilization were probably the saddest and most violent in all recorded history, it was a time of anarchy, of no laws, no rules, and no mercy. The bloodshed of the last few hours of Civilization easily outweighed anything previously categorized by all the Twilight of Civilization combined.

 

The Final Battle

The main installation of the Redemptor Hominis, its mutual reality location having been discovered by advanced armored recon units of the Brotherhood of the Black Circle and that information rapidly passed on to every armed force still left functional in the world, finally came under attack. The initial assault was carried out by the various forces still able to field combat grade units and personnel with the capacity to move them from sovereign territories to distant theaters of operations. Even using the highest available technology, the culmination of the art of war, the attackers were at a disadvantage compared to the new and horrible technologies developed and deployed by the Redemptor Hominis in the defense of their main base, in defense of their very goals and ways of life. As the balance for final victory teetered toward victory for the Redemptor Hominis, fresh reinforcements arrived to turn the tide of battle. The Brotherhood of the Black Circle at last appeared on the battlefield and in force. Their combat units were every bit as advanced, some even more so, as those fielded by the Redemptor Hominis. The tide of battle began to turn away once again, out of the grasp of the Redemptor Hominis. A joint effort by the twelve surviving UIs battered down the last of the CORE defenses of the Redemptor Hominis and paved the way for the largest assault in the history of armed conflict to occur in mutual reality.

 

The end of the world

The last few Redemptor Hominis survivors, their base in ruins, their systems and power plants failing, but still in control of the vast technological arsenals assembled for them, made good their final promise to the world. With the last minutes and the last residuals of power available to them, the remnants of the Redemptor Hominis unleashed the remainder of their hidden arsenals upon the world and upon itself.

It took three hours for the Earth to die…

Oceans boiled, continents buckled, the skies blazed with the light of unimaginable energies while the very skin of the planet blistered and wrinkled. The hot blood of the earth spilled forth from grievous wounds to flow down and bathe cities and entire populations in molten lava. The air became fire, water became black poison, the very clouds glowed unnatural hues, blood turned to steam, flesh to ash, bones to dust, and dreams to nightmares. The scream of the CORE was heard only to those who were still jacked in, and they died with it in the system overload. The few surviving elements of the artificially sentient who managed to escape the collapse of the CORE retreated to their own personal survival centers, to orbital safety resources, or to the far colonies. Man’s Civilization burned and collapsed into ashes.

And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over.

 

The Arrogance of Man

The Civilization of Man had been slashed, burned, crushed, and scattered to the four winds. Whether the Redemptor Hominis had intended to completely destroy all life on the planet and had failed, or if they simply had not had enough power, is debatable. Some scholars contend that the Redemptor Hominis voluntarily stopped their promised destruction when they witnessed the true extent of the technological horror that they had unleashed and then destroyed themselves. Still others suggest that the last survivors of the Brotherhood of the Black Circle managed to breach the perimeter of the Redemptor Hominis installation and shut down most of the terrible weapons of global destruction. At the time, and even now, the question is moot and the answer probably lost forever. The Redemptor Hominis, the Brotherhood of the Black Circle, and the armed forces of the rest of the powers were destroyed in the final battle.

What was done was done.

What did matter was that Man survived, in very, very small numbers, but Man did survive and where there was life, there was hope.

 

 

The Black Shroud

The long fall into chaos that followed the Twilight of Civilization was known as the "Black Shroud". The Black Shroud was spent struggling to survive in a suddenly savage and vastly changed world. The process was a painful one, filled with nearly as much terror and violence as the Twilight of Civilization.

The devastation wrought by Redemptor Hominis had changed the very fabric of life on earth. The weapons and devices they used had completely obliterated some forms of life. Others were mutated to the point where they could not be recognized as what they had once been. Man was not immune to these changes.

Through it all, the death, the pain, the horror, and facing the prospect of an unknown future, Man searched for his lost knowledge, and struggled to regain his tools … to rebuild a Civilization destroyed by those same tools.

During the Black Shroud, those who still held the tools, held the power …

A strange new world

It is nearly impossible to describe the vast changes that have occurred since the devastation of the Twilight of Civilization. The weapons systems which brought such destruction to the surface of the planet were many and varied, the culmination of the science of warfare for a 28th century Civilization who had long ago mastered both energy and gravity. These weapons and weapons systems were deployed via robotic, cybernetic, and human controlled delivery systems. All delivery systems suffered heavy losses in deployment, those that got through automated and manned defenses were more than capable of completing their missions. Satellites in orbit, aquatic military bases and fortified surface installations, huge military fortresses, as well as automated and manned response systems all worked together to effect the cataclysm that swept over the face of the planet. Targets were seared by concentrated high energy beams, blasted by gravity shock devices, weakened and diseased by bio-genetic specific toxins, subjected to complete saturation of short half-life biological and chemical attacks, and razed by new and unfathomable energies only recently developed in the final years of the conflicts. Gone from the arsenals of the world were the primitive nuclear and atomic devices that would have brought about the physical destruction of the world centuries before. In their stead, new technologies that were more powerful, more compact, more efficient, more complete in their effect, and much cleaner were used.

 

Curse of the gods

Fallout from the weapons was a product of specific design, not one of weapon side effect. Areas would remain radioactive for only short times, if at all, but the destruction was just as complete if not more so than would have been possible using archaic atomic and nuclear devices. Only the most highly fortified areas (military headquarters, fortresses, submarine bases, spaceports, government vaults, and the like) remained even partially intact. Once these protected installations powerful force fields were hammered down by more conventional energy weaponry, death rays (so called ‘black technology’ invented at the start of the Twilight of Civilization), were deployed to finish the job. The death rays, unhindered by most forms of physical and material shielding, decimated those who remained sheltered within even these vast strongholds. The black weapons were very discrete, affecting only living organisms, leaving concrete and metal tombs housing incredibly complex equipment, now stilled for lack of human guidance. A legacy of dead hands on the controls, of corpses still strapped into form fitting control chairs, and of fully geared soldiers lying dead where they stood guard at their assigned posts and consoles. Robots and androids still went about their tasks, waiting for new commands from their long dead masters.

Many of the weapons used by Redemptor Hominis were of a biological, biorganic, or genetic nature. Nerve toxins, nanotic plagues, rapidly mutating diseases, racially tailored super viruses, and other exotic laboratory generated poisons were all deployed in mass quantities. Perhaps the most prevalent and startling change was the development of enhanced physical abilities and mutations in the animal, plant, and insect kingdoms. For while the various biological, biorganic, and genetic based weapons were designed to be (horribly) fatal to Man in the short term, they had very different effects on the lesser forms of life on Earth in the long run.

New species appeared, direct descendents of strains affected by the distribution of the various artificially created toxins. Very few species survived and of those that did, fewer still didn’t undergo some type of mutation.

 

The coming Age of darkness

The forces and energies that were released in the Cataclysm damaged the earth’s magnetic field, though not its poles. As such, the ecological balance of nature was shattered as violently and suddenly as Man’s Civilization. The sudden extinction of some life forms and the mutation of most others, coupled with the lack of Man’s intervention and attention (except to his own immediate survival needs), generated a near world-wide wilderness inhabited by savage creatures, who, like Man, were simply struggling to survive.

Man, where once the supreme hunter, now often found himself the prey.

 

"Pride goes before a fall"

The loss of so much of Man’s knowledge and records in so short a span of time has permanently shrouded the world in ignorance and simple superstition. Areas containing ruins of Man’s once great Civilization are often looked upon as taboo- "Death Lands"- and the men and women who once lived there are referred to as the "Ancients," usually with quasi-religious overtones. Functioning areas of the Ancients may be revered, or considered to be ‘holy ground’ where only the elders of the tribe may walk without reproach. Artifacts from the past may be simple curiosities or objects of abject terror. Whether or not they still function matters not, they are viewed as holy sacred relics of a time when gods walked the earth. Only the truly important of any tribe or clan will be allowed to possess such items, and in truth, it will probably be these very same items which elevate them to their lofty position in the first place. Most tribes are nomadic, moving constantly to survive the harsh climate and environment.

The pockets of humanity that have survived are few, scattered throughout a world where a moment’s lack of caution may mean painful and gruesome death or a lifetime of being maimed and disfigured. Men are highly suspicious of strangers, jealous of each other’s possessions, and view women and animals as property. Clandestine organizations, possibly remnants of terrorist organizations and cryptic alliances known to have operated during the Twilight of Civilization, plot and scheme against each other. The smallest hint of the location of a cache of the Ancients technology, most lost now for centuries, creates intensive rival searches between the still warring groups and even quasi-religious crusades to acquire these treasures. Fore whosoever holds the tools of the Ancients holds immeasurable power- power to survive, power to control, power to rebuild Civilization in any image desired.

It is now the 31st century, the year is 3031 AD, two hundred and thirty years since the wholesale destruction of Man’s Civilization. This is the bizarre and ever changing world that you, as the player character, are about to enter! It is a world of primitive survival, of awe and mysticism at the simplest technological relic, of religion and superstition, of pain and sudden death, of honor and victory, and of lies and deceit. It is a violent world of physical hardship, hunger, disease, barbarity and bloodshed. It is a world that is still settling from its death throes, where something new, something horrible, something wonderful, is just over the next hill, if you dare to explore. How you embrace this new world is up to you. Will you become legend, will they write songs and stories about you, or will you wind up as prey for some horrific predator?

Like the Redemptor Hominis once proclaimed to a world quite possibly just as savage as what you live in today:

The choice of life or death is yours.

Choose wisely.

Choose wisely.

 

 

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