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THE WORLD OF DARK AGE

Sometime around the turn of both centuries everything went to hell. The world was crawling out from under its third recession in twenty years. Everything added up to end the idea of a bright clean future. The rising world population, urban sprawl, record unemployment and the unwillingness of those in power to change brought about civil unrest and even civil war. The next 150 years are whirlwind of future shocks and manmade terrors.

Early 21st Century (2000-2030)

With the world crawling slowly out of a yet another world recession, civil unrest continued to be a problem for more European cities. Police forces suffer from bugets cuts and the "instant results" mentality sees a number of private security firms ushered in. Anti-capitalist rallies and other protests become more violent.

The New National Front in Germany and France gathers pace fuled by unemployment and increased government acceptance of immigrants and assulym seekers. Jobs remain scare in Europe. The high cost of food and lower government benefits are blamed for the food riots of Paris, London and Greater Munic. In response, most European countries now have a permanently armed police force.

Russia and the Baltic states, anxious to steady the fall of the Ruble join the ill fated Exchange Rate Mechanism. Soon afterwards its membership to the Economic community, Russia becomes a full member of the European States in 2017.

The fragmented Yugoslavian states, Bosnia and Croatia, cease all conflict after their combat zones are carpet bombed by the United Nations. An uneasy peace settlement is drawn up and is only held in place by the threat of further action.

Scandinavia joins the ERM but declines the offer of full EEC membership.

With the ever-improving state of telecommunications the European computer network, Euronet, goes online on 2027. The system provides a medium for all telecom traffic, from fax to television signals. The now tired Internet in America, is replaced by Datanet. The Datanet Project is four years late, and was only made possible by massive corporate subsidies.

Mid 21st Century (2031 - 2060)

The European currency, the Eurofranc, is finally established and proves to be strong competition for the American dollar as the world standard.

After a combined Anglo-America project, the two powers announce the breakthrough of artificial intelligence. The new AI software is capable of even the most complex thoughts, although it is not self-aware, nor does it have the ability to conceive new ideas.

An AIDS cure, Nylancin, is released by a team from New Delhi and is released to a needy third world.

Japan calls off trade talks with America, due to the worker's unions much needed pay review. Japanese and American relations fall to all-time lows, and they enter a trade war by the end of the 2050.

The EEC European stealth fighter plane, Vanguard, finally goes into service, after generous corporate donations.

The great 'quake hits the American west coast. San Francisco and Los Angeles are levelled and there is major flooding in many areas. An emergency government task force is set in place to deal with looting and health care issues.

The German and French right wing parties gain further seats in their respective countries.

Northern England and Scotland are plagued by further civil unrest on all major housing estates. London sends in riot police and then the army in a bid to end "Blood Summer".

The northern states of Africa unite under the Africa Democratic Republic in an attempt to stand against growing corporate interests. MacroTech and EurOil are brought to answer for their improper business practices.

Numanadyne and REvolution present desinger baby technology. The genetic modifications are said to increase intelligence and memory capacity. Despite the outcry by the moral minority, the technologies are a big hit with the public - at least with those that can afford them.

Late 21st Century (2061 - 2090)

America's problems with civil unrest and a stagnant economic situation sees the USA split. NORCALA - the Northern California Alliance, is the first super-state to leave. New Tejas, Greater Boston and the Great Lake Arcology soon follow suit. The USA now splinters into a group of individual states due to Congress' debts and contining civil unrest.

The Japanese datanet, Willow, joins EuroNet, and the foundations for a global telecommunications net are set.

In 2067 a three year old British research AI, Churchill, becomes self-aware. This rocks both the scientific and religious communities.

Japan and the EEC announce a cybernetic breakthrough: the perfection of the biological nerve interface. Soon prosthetic limbs are developed. They have excellent sensory- and dexterity-levels, almost rivalling the efficiency of meat limbs.

After years of steady gain in power the United Europe political party succeed in the unification off Germany, Austria and a large part of Switzerland. The EEC flounders in its own bureaucracy and corruptionin before finally disintegrating in 2072. The european currency, Euromark, remains as it's propped up by the corporate investments.

Belgium, Luxembourg and France form their own trade alliance; Franco-Benelux.

Due to lax border control and a huge population increase, Northern India is invaded by the Chinese population in massive numbers. Despite initial difference the Indian government takes in the refuges and this sees a large increase in India's cybernetic industies.

The world sees it's first overt corporate war, as Bundes Elektric and the Farren Ordinance Corporation take each other on over building rights in Eastern Europe. The Corporate Council is formed to help prevent future corpwars.

The search for alternative and renewable energy sources increases as oil and coal supplies dwindle. Low tempreature fusion becomes popular if expensive to set up initially.

America and Europe see the start of the bod-modding craze. This bioware fetishists are dubbed Breed and the name sticks. All-over skin colourations, animal eyes and claws become very popular in the counter-culture.

The petty rivalry in America eventually leads to a civil war in 2086, although there is no nuclear exchange. The shattered American Congress appeals to the world for aid but receives none. NORCALA - the Northern Californian Alliance readies a laser platform against New Texas. The civil war rages for ten years. Sporadic fighting continues until 2099 when a peace treaty is signed by NORCALA and the mid-western rebel states.

In 2089, the long time failing British National Health Service finally ends and medical insurance becomes the norm for those requiring medical treatment. This follows the global trend towards private medical care, which leads to disastrous effects on the lower classes. Soon after, many governments in similar financial arrears withdraw benefits schemes.

Turn of the Century (2091 - 2120)

Turn of the century cults surface again preaching the End Times are upon is.

America perfects the cybersoldier; deemed the perfect warrior, they are state of the art soldiers with enhanced cyberlimbs and on-board weaponry. The cybertroops are helped out by the first genetic augmented humans - SHARCs.

The world's data networks link in 2109 to form a globe spanning network. It is self sustaining and soon has its own law enforcement agency - Sentinel. The netcops prove to be far from popular with the those used to exploited weak software.

The world culture sees another sexual revolution as biological modifiications are mixed with sexual politics. The public learns a lot about asexuals and tri-sexuals as tissue transplant technology gets better and better. The Breed phenomenan takes off as transplants get cheaper.

The increase in corporate property leads the United Nations to accept representatives from the Corporate Council. A year later members of the growing orbital communities apply and obtain seats.

After years of cuts to the British Military, the majority of the armed forces hold a successful coup in 2095. Despite heavy losses the Special Boat Service, Territorial Army and the King's 2nd bio-commandos continue to resist. Britain reels under the wrath of martial law. Terrorism becomes rife despite the efforts of the secret police. The regime lasts until 2129, when the battle of Dartmoor and the termination of two of the three Lord-Generals sees the end of the military dictatorship.

The Toledo College in Spain opens it's doors for public research into extra sensory perception. The original college was closed during the Spanish Inquisition although remained as an underground society. The St. Petersburg Institute for Psychic Research opens a year later.

Mid 22nd Century (2121 - 2142)

Due to pressure from the corporate sector a new world currency, the World Dollar, is established. The second world stock exchange is also founded, based in New Tokyo, but accessible from all parts of netspace.

In the United Kingdom, the city sprawls of Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and Coventry combine to form Neo-Birmingham. It becomes the site for the new House of Ministers (ex-Commons - the House of Lords was dissolved during the coup).

Greater Merchester is formed from the urban sprawls of Manchester and Mersyside. What was previously the Leeds and Bradford megaplex, joins with Sheffield to form New Breefield. This joins with Neo-Birmingham to form the third largest megacity in Europe. The others include Neues-Lander in the Germanic Free States (which lies on the borders of Germany and Austria) and Moscow's Neuvo-Metropolis.

The cyberdeck is developed and released onto the market. Coupled with the revolutionary Interface Operating System, the global network, Worldnet, is transformed into virtual reality in 2117. Netspace technology is now a reality.

Details of genetic experiments are leaked to the global network news station; GNN. The experiments are on cloned embryos to create early forms of bioware.

The new world stock exchange sees a shift in the economic powers, as the major corporations take over the lesser companies to form the new global megacorporations. Each is almost self-sufficient, owning schools, colleges, towns, and in some cases, countries.

Weather control technology is virtually perfected. Limited climate control is now possible although it also makes eco-war more feasible. The increasingly troublesome weather prompts many megacities to build domes.

After the success of permanent manned space-labs, the megacorps build permanent orbital colonies for workers, mainly as alternative habitats. The world governments had very little say in the matter.

The Tycho Moonbase is used as a starting point for a Mars mission, financed by the ESA, in collaboration with a collection of North American states.

The world, in the light of all these new advances, reenters the corporate age.

2141

The present day. You are here. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.

THE WAY OF THE WORLD

The world is still firmly stuck in the multinational and decaying 22nd century. Global Media stations pump out the latest trends and corporate products, while the space race continues, except it is not countries which have space programs, but rather the corporations who are now in power.

Although there have been many recent corporate wars and social changes, the megacorps have remained in power. Their position has grown considerably as the world market has stabilized and the world currency reestablished. America and Europe have seen the most change as they shifted into different countries.

Despite the recent population boom in the other bodmod or genemod races, vanilla humans are still the most numerous. They still occupy the positions of power in most governments, (in fact some states have never had a non-human politician), although in the corporate sector the percentages are slipping.

THE WORLD

If you have read through the timeline you will notice that the future is not so bright and rosy. Countries have risen and fell, cities built, nations fought and man has changed his face many times.

Society

The old social class system is not applicable any more. There is a greater divide between now, that of employed or unemployed. The middle class came and went again at the turn of the 22nd century and people went down rather than up. While many studies and social research projects have been written on society, the main divisor is the issue of employment. The transnational corporations are the ones in power and if you work for them life is considerably easier.

Corporate workers do not just get a wage and health benefits. The company can provide a car, house (or apartment) and education for their employee's children. In the 'burbs life is safer with the corpcops keeping the undesireables out and Internal Security has an ever vigilant electronic eye to spot the petty criminals. This nicely rapped package makes it very hard for anyone to want to leave.

The bulk of the working population are employed in service industries or office duties. Heavy industry and middle management positions are rare, the machinists being replaced by robots and the managers by information technology and artificially intelligent office monitors. After all machines work twenty four hours a day and do not riot when the food runs out.

At the top of the corporate structures are the senior managers and corporate executives. Their lifestyle is very different to the rest of the masses. They live in the lap of luxury yet the shark-eat-shark waters can make life at the top short and sweet. If you are an exec you better have all your assets covered, unless you want your junior to cut the power from under you.

The executive board is where the power lies, these are the men and women who decide what economic policy to follow, who to rip off and what to placate the masses with. The transnationals are more powerful than the vast majority of governments, in some cases they are the government in all but name. China, NORCALA (Northern Californian Alliance) and Titan are corporate ruled states where their rulers asked the company to step in and manage things for them. Corporate states can be pleasant (if you are working) and downright brutal if you are one of the underdogs.

If you are not signed up for virtual slavery, life is a lot harder. The benefit systems collapsed decades ago and just to get by lots of people are involved in a grey economy, not one that is illegal outright, but is dubiously legal. Information piracy and smuggling are the most common. Food and data are the two biggest commodities in demand. For a long time the powers that be know there is a direct link between poverty and crime, sadly however we have yet to learn this lesson.

Education has suffered greatly, in fact conspiracy theorists say that this is because a dumb population is easier to control. The real reason is that the massive population strained the system so much that unless you want to learn it is very difficult. So when you have the ghetto children more worried about food and survival than an education, schools go downhill, the state withdraws and a vicious circle is formed until public schools and colleges all but disappear. As the corpzones have less pressing crimes than citycops, corporate kids get picked up and sent to school. With crime at an all time high over the last five years, keeping kids off the street is a good idea (that or gun them down like the Siberian government did in the 2080s).

So it's not that people do not want to learn, many do not get the chance. Those with a lot of ambition or the truly talented can be picked up by the corporations. They are sponsored through college and have the option to a nice lab or assistant junior exec chance post. The catch is that you join up or you pay back your course fees, not surprisingly people sign on the dotted line.

Those that do not join up, or sell out, make ends meet by selling there skills to the highest bidder. There is always a need for some hired muscle the harsh urban environment and technical types are often in demand to fix when people cannot afford a call out charge.

Hoi Poloi

People do not ask a lot of questions these days and are happy to veg out in front the daily broadcast of sickly sweet sitcoms, glamourkid soap operas nestled between buy-me-buy-me product placements and other advertainment promotions. The media gives the viewers what they want and when they want it. The shows are geared to pull the most viewers as more viewers means more advertisers which mean cash!! Of course, if you've got a large unemployed population presented with things they can't afford........

The media is not just highdef TV, radio or magazines. The written word is disappearing to be replaced by simplistic icon-images for the simplistic and illiterate millions. Magazines are more likely to be interactive downloads than the old biweekly fashion glossy. The sheer amount of HDTV and holo channels means that there is always something to watch, you just have to find it buried under all the crap.

Sex and violence are big audience winners although most stations keeps the hardcore back "for the children's sake" until after 8pm. Most companies pay only lip service to their gentlemen's agreement, showing mostly what they want when the want. There are a couple of nice family channels running but they are not as profitable and are therefore less prominent.

New technologies have give birth to new reporting methods. Simulated Stimulation, simstim or just plain "stim" is big business. Using a playback unit, the user can feel what the recordee feels, and with recent developments, thinks. Stim is pre-recorded is almost always pre-recorded as makers edit the recordings heavily, everything is perfect and like the advert says "Like real life - only BETTER!".

Electronic news gathering is very fast and reporters carry more processing power in their skull than George Lucas' Dreamquest Company had in the late 1990s. Even the corpcops carry vidcams so they can sell off the footage, although you can bet they get switched off when its time for the homeless crackdown. The news is fast and there are enough channels to spread cover all of it along with specialist interest channels to interpret it for you (which is a subtle way of saying socio-political bias).

The big media megacorporations are GNN (or Global News Network) and Diverse Media, although like the other markets there are plenty of small fry to keep the big fish from getting too smug. Network Europa is such a small outfit, having a broadcast footprint over Northern Europe and parts of the Eastern Collective (parts of Old Russia and pre-unified Baltic States). There is a vast number of HDTV, holo and now a few stim channels running the Net. GNN has the biggest share (typically about 35%) while Diverse Media is a close second (30%, but have more films and media retail profits). There is not just the Earth to consider either, the Moon and Mars have possible audiences, not the mention the cultural hotpot of Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Global Computer Network

The Net must be one of mankind's greatest achievements, some say rivalled only by fire or the industrial revolution. The seeds for a global net were set way back in the late twentieth century, although it was at least another fifty years until the technology caught up with our expectations. Early virtual reality technology was basic and clumbersome. While advances were made slowly, the majority of development was in bandwidth and user interfaces.

International Computer Systems made a great leap forward with by improving data compression and signal handling. Their protocol are still used today as no group has managed to better them.

The Euronet goes online soon after with each city wired in with a steady increase of guest users from Russia, Sweden and the eastern european countries. The American Internet follows four years later due to lack of funding. The American megacorps push this through Congress with massive subsidy.

In 2065 the second major change came when EuroNet joins Willow, the Japanese and Pacific-Rim net. This was not just a few links allow data exchange, rather the two nets merge, becoming one vast net radically increasing the european and far east's economic alliance.

Although artificially intelligent software had been in use for some time, AIs could only make basic decisions and it took up a lot of processor time. Although they could think and understand language, they were not self-aware. At 4.23am, 8th February 2067 a British research AI - code named Churchill - became self-aware. After months of study "he" is officially declared self-aware by psychiatrists and philosophers alike. Churchill was no genius but slowly progressed to an above-average IQ level. The Churchill AI was unique in that his creators, a joint Japanese/British venture, had taken a software approach rather than relying on hardware alone. What spooked some of the research team was that Churchill would enter a light "sleep" twice a day for an hour a time.

Further milestones are made when superchips are released onto the market. Although still based on silicon, superchips are vastly superior allowing even faster clock speeds and denser memory storage (ie: more data in less space). The turn of the twenty second century sees the arrival of magnetic bubble storage, which does not use chips, rather bubbles of magnetism to record information in crystal strips. Cybernetics and neural interfaces alter the concept of a computer, no longer are they pocket computers with clunky interfaces but supersmart personal assistants.

While the world's individual telecomm networks and Internet3 communicated with each other, they were still very much islands with bridged connections rather than a singly unified system. 2109 sees the end of separate systems as all connect to form a truly global network, not just links but a planet spanning network. This network provided blanket coverage for wired and mobile connectivity to just about anywhere around the planet. To combat the increasing computer crime "Sentinel" - basically the 'net cops - is created to secure the Net, reduce piracy and investigate cybercrime.

Computers make another leap forward when biochips are developed by Maas Corporation in late 2114. Supercomputer processing power moves increases by incredible amounts, AIs increase in power and the Net gets even quicker.

With the Net having the potential to support a viable virtual reality, a computer with realtime sensory feed is created. Linked to the brain via a neural interface jack, the cyberdeck allows users to log into another world. The dreams of sci-fi writers are made reality in 2117. The face of communications is revolutioised.

Cybernetics

Cybernetics have been around for a long time now and most people cannot remember life without them. There are many types of modification, not just new limbs. Eyes, ears and hearts can all be replaced, neural computers can alter they way you learn and a dataplug lets you into the data-sea of the Net. Augmented people are not that rare, but the majority of wearers choose easily concealed cyberware. Often the media portrays most cyborgs as hard metal killers. Not surprisingly this is why most people choose to hide their improvements away.

Cyberware has its downside like anything. It is not the cybernetics that can make a person unstable - more a case that a person gives in to their ego. Arrogance and paranoia are common among the boosted community - it seems that when people upgrade, some fall into the trap of beliving that they are better than everyone else. Of course, one might argue that no sane person would cut off a limb to replace it, but that arguement has little value today.

The current edge of cybernetics is neuralware, which affects the mind, and bioware, which are biological versions of common cybernetics. Bioware is more costly than cyberware but it has less of an effect on the mind, soul and in some instances is better than a cybernetic enhancement. After all, a bioware organ does not need battery replacement and can heal damage to itself.

Transport

Traffic remains a problem for many large cities, although the arrival of the computerised aircars have helped reduce road traffic somewhat. Many european city centres ban traffic from their inner city areas and taking public transport is a necessity. Trams, monorail and in some cases, motorised walkways are available. Parking can be an absolute nightmare, so two wheeled transport continues to be popular with the younger generation.

The UK rail network was replaced by a fast monorail system in the late 21st century. It remains expensive but is a very safe way of travelling through the county - second only to air travel. Monorail stations can be found at virtually all major cities and the sorry state of the motorways keeps many people on the trains. Given the recent revolution in the UK, large parts of the road systems were damaged or left unrepaired. The cities have fairly good roads, but leaving the multi-tiered linkways between cities is ill-advised. Armed rebels and bandits are not uncommon - particularly in remote areas such as the Derby Dales, the South Downs and the Pennines.