Slouching toward Apocalypse (1999-2010) – Two Supreme Court rulings, made in 1999 and 2001 respectively, that set the stage for a world in which megacorporate call the shots. The first one upheld Seretech Corporation’s right to maintain an armed force for the protection of its personnel and property. The second established corporate extraterritoriality, giving multinational corporations the same rights and privileges as foreign governments. The Shiawase Decision owed its existence to a botched attack on a Shiawase, Inc. nuclear power plant by the radical eco-group TerraFirst!
The Resource Rush and Lone Eagle – The U.S. government allowed corporations to buy natural resources from Indian reservations and federal parklands. This was the proverbial last straw for many Native Americans. The more radical-minded founded the Sovereign American Indian Movement (SAIM) to fight the corporate takeovers. When United Oil Industries acquired the petrochemical resources in one-tenth of the remaining Indian reservations in 2009, the SAIM responded by capturing a missile silo at the U.S. Air Force’s Shiloh Launch Facility in northwest Montana. The U.S. head honchos spent ten days pretending to negotiate and then sent in the Delta Team anti-terrorist squad. The “good guys” recaptured the silo, but not before someone sent a missile on a collision course with the Russian Republic. The warheads never hit. To this day, the truth as to why hasn’t been uncovered. When the public found out about it, anti-Indian riots began breaking out nationwide. The U.S. Congress, added to the xenophobic atmosphere by passing the Re-Education and Relocation Act just months after its introduction in late 2009. Throughout 2010, thousands of innocent Native Americans got shipped off to “re-education centers”.
Japan, INC. – In 2005, backed by Japanese corporate interests, South Korea declared war on North Korea. In early 2006, North Korea launched nukes at Japan in a desperate effort to force them out of the conflict. The missiles didn’t detonate, however, and by the end of the year North Korea was overrun. Emboldened by the success of these maneuverings, Japan soon afterward proclaimed itself the Japanese Imperial State. It followed up by deploying the first of a fleet of solar-powered collection satellites to beam microwave energy to receptors on the Earth’s surface. With this relatively cheap method of distributing power to isolated regions, Japan began a virtual economic takeover of the Third World.
VITAS the new black death – The first cases of Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome turned up in India in 2010; by the end of the year, the disease had claimed roughly a quarter of the world’s population. People panicked; even the rich and well-cared-for could die of this scourge, and those still healthy resorted to any means necessary to stay that way. Mexico City suffered through one of the most brutal responses, which the locals call “Terror Time”; as the dead piled up in the streets, self-styled Citizens’ Action Committees burned whole portions of the city as “a safety precaution.”
2011 The Year of Chaos – All over the world, “normal” parents started producing apparently mutant children—elves and dwarfs, the first metahumans. The scientists called this frightening phenomenon Unexplained Genetic Expression, or UGE. On December 24, hundreds of Japanese on a bullet train whizzing past Mount Fuji witnessed the first appearance of the great dragon Ryumyo. At precisely the same moment, Daniel Howling Coyote led his followers out of the Abilene, Texas Re-Education Center. According to eyewitness accounts by camp guards, all the shots fired at Howling Coyote failed to touch him; In Australia, the first of many violent “mana storms” swept through the Outback and killed hundreds. In Ireland, western forests began growing rapidly for no apparent reason, and ancient Slighe roads, peat bogs and cairn lines began to re-emerge from the land. Across Great Britain, stone circles and standing stones erupted through the earth, forming patterns of sacred sites extending along known ley lines. The great dragon Dunkelzahn made his first appearance near Cherry Creek Lake in Denver. The resulting interview—twelve hours and sixteen minutes of it—gave the world its first clue to the breadth and depth of the rise of magic that came to be called the Awakening.
The Indian War and the great ghost dance – The NAN, a coalition of tribes headed by a body known as the Sovereign Tribal Council, laid claim to all of North America and ordered all Anglos out under pain of dire magical retribution. The NAN conflict swiftly degenerated into a debacle for the U.S. government, which reacted with predictable harshness. Over the following year, Coyote and his people—and later, Native Americans all across the continent—began the magical ritual known as the Great Ghost Dance. The Dance raised vast amounts of magical power, which the Native Americans turned against their enemies. As the U.S. government moved to implement the Resolution Act, freak weather and other uncanny disturbances disrupted military bases and supply dumps assigned to the operation. The havoc reached its height on August 17, 2017, when Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams all erupted in cataclysmic fury. The suddenness and extent of the devastation finally convinced even the most skeptical boneheads that the magic was real and that the Indians were serious.
The Treaty Of Denver – In 2018, leaders of the U.S. and Canada grudgingly met the leaders of the NAN in Denver to talk peace. The guest list included Aztlan, which had received a seat on the Sovereign Tribal Council in return for providing assistance and safe havens to NAN forces. Over three long and contentious months, the participants hammered out the Treaty of Denver, which acknowledged the sovereignty of the NAN over most of western North America. Provisions included the establishment of reservations for non-tribals and corporations, the maintenance of cities like Seattle as extraterritorial extensions of various governments and the retention of most of California by the United States. Denver became the “Treaty City,” under joint administration by the signing parties.
Welcome To Our World (2018–2029) – Dr. Hosato Hikita of Chicago-based ESP Systems, Inc. created the first-generation ASIST (Artificial Sensory Induction System) technology. Not quite a year later, Transys Corporation announced the successful implantation of the first cyberlimb in a human being—specifically, the left hand of a virtuoso violinist who’d lost her meat original in a freak accident while debarking from a bullet train. Other developments as the teens drew to a close included the appearance of Lone Star Security Services in Corpus Christi, Texas, which became the first city to contract full-service, city-wide law enforcement with a private agency; the transformation of the old U.S. space station Freedom into the Zurich-Orbital Space Habitat; and the official founding of the Seattle Metroplex, with Seattle Mayor Charles C. Lindstrom as governor.
Goblinization – On April 30, 2021, all over the world, one out of every ten adults suddenly metamorphosized into hideous humanoid shapes. Soon the phenomenon started to afflict children; some were born “monsters,” while others changed soon after puberty. The media, with its unerring instinct for sensational buzzwords, dubbed the process “goblinization.” Before long, the afflicted were called “orks” and “trolls” after the creatures from fantasy that they resembled. Fearing that it might be contagious, governments all over the world begin rounding up metahumans and their families. The U.S. government declared martial law for months in a futile attempt at control, but things didn’t really calm down until a new wave of VITAS swept the planet in late 2022. This outbreak claimed another 10 percent of the world’s population, briefly uniting human and metahuman in fear.
In Other News – In 2023—the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court granted metahuman races equal protection under the law. On the political front, in 2029 scads of elves in Salish-Shidhe territory moved to the Mount Rainier area and declared themselves a separate tribe called the Sinsearach. The mid-2020s saw sales of the first simsense entertainment unit, offering the user rudimentary sense impressions. The experimental “remote-vote” system was up and running for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, though opponents of re-elected-by-a-landslide President Jarman had their doubts about how well it worked. The breakthrough that did the most to make our wired-up world what it is today came between 2026 and 2029, when Sony Cybersystems, Fuchi Industrial Electronics and RCA-Unisys all developed prototype cyberterminals that allowed users to interface with the world data network via the central nervous system. The first volunteers to use them went mad, which the corps and the military took as a scandalous waste of training dollars. Over the next few years, various R&D gurus refined the technology and made it safer. The CIA, NSA and IRS pooled their resources to exploit cyberterminals as quickly as they could manage, recruiting and training a team of “cyber-commandos” under the code name Echo Mirage.
The Crash Of ‘29 – On February 8, 2029, computer systems across the world got hit with apparently random attacks by a virus nastier than anything ever seen before. As the killer program spread, governments toppled and the world economy neared collapse. The virus shattered the Grid, the data network that held the world together. Echo Mirage swung into action almost immediately by presidential order, but the psychological demands of combat in cyberspace overwhelmed the mostly straight-arrow, linear-thinking agents. So the folks in charge recruited the most brilliant data-processing mavericks from industry and several universities, ramming them through a brutal training program. Thirty-two men and women graduated with their sanity intact. In August, armed with improved cybertech, the new Echo Mirage team mounted a coordinated attack on the killer program. Eighteen minutes after engaging the virus, four members of Echo Mirage were dead. The remaining Echo Mirage team began purging the Grid of infection. Late in 2031, Echo Mirage wiped out the last known concentration of the virus code. Shortly afterward, four of the surviving seven members decamped into the private sector, taking with them the secrets of the new technology. To this day no one is sure just where they turned up (though some of us have our suspicions).
Secession And War (2030–2037) – On October 15, 2030, the remnants of the U.S. and Canada officially became the United Canadian and American States (UCAS). Elsewhere in the world, things didn’t go so well. Awakened forces seized control of Siberia, much to the Russkies’ chagrin. It all exploded in a conflict that would last for more than a dozen years, predictably dubbed the Euro-Wars. In the dead of night on January 23, 2033, Swedish airspace monitors detected several flights of what they took to be British Aerospace Nightwraith fighter-bombers streaking across northern Europe. In short order, the aircraft obliterated key communications and command centers belonging to all sides. That same night, unknown assassins nailed more than a dozen key commanders. The combatants announced a cease-fire the following day. In 2033, led by senators from Alabama and Georgia, legislators from the southern states staged a mass walkout that threatened to derail the ongoing merger of the United States and Canada. Delegates from ten southern states met to discuss secession, and though they ultimately decided against it, the seed had been sown. A year later, to protest what they saw as preferential treatment for northern sprawl zones, these states broke away to form the Confederated American States (CAS). Everyone expected a second Civil War to break out, but we got lucky. Interestingly, the Sovereign State of South Florida chose to join the recently formed Caribbean League rather than the CAS. And then came the elven nations—Tír na nÓg and Tir Tairngire, in Europe and North America respectively. The wave of secessions finally ended in 2037, when California became the California Free State in spite of itself.
Corporate Machinations (2033–2048) – The first of our current major players to burst onto the scene was Damien Knight, who made his debut with the famous Nanosecond Buyout of Ares Industries in 2033. The second player is Richard Villiers who contacted Fuchi—then owned by a pair of Japanese partners—with copies of the first gray-market cyberterminal research data that was supposedly lost in May of 2034, when Matrix Systems of Boston main computer crashed and its two founders died in apparently unrelated accidents. Third on the list of corporate players to emerge was the great dragon Lofwyr, who in 2037 made the startling announcement that he owned 63 percent of Saeder-Krupp stock. The big wyrm used it to vote himself into the chairmanship of the board, then name himself president.
Humans And Metas — From Bad To Worse (2036–2046) – The year 2036 opened with the napalm fire-bombing of a town in rural Ohio that claimed twenty lives, most of them metahumans. A group calling itself Alamos 20,000 claimed responsibility; over the next fifteen years, Alamos would be linked to the deaths of more than a thousand metahumans and humans who didn’t happen to share Alamos’ bigotry. Similar attitudes, though less violently expressed, made themselves felt in the 14th Amendment to the UCAS Constitution. Ratified that same year, the amendment established the System Identification Number (SIN) and required the registration of every UCAS citizen. People without SINs were defined as “probationary citizens,” with sharply limited rights. The amendment made species other than homo sapiens eligible for—you guessed it—probationary citizenship. Over the next three years, hate crimes against metahumans escalated. They reached a peak on February 7, 2039, aptly known ever afterward as the Night of Rage. Thousands of metahumans, friends of metas and metahuman wannabes died in worldwide riots. In many cities, metahumans were rounded up and detained under armed guard “for their own protection.”