The Setting - Paradise: After the Fall

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The world has changed so much, and yet so little. And then again, it really has changed so much. The buildings are still more brick than plastic, more wood than steel. Cars still run for far too much on far too little gas. The cities of the world are just as crowded, if not moreso, but the while the world is only getting smaller, in one way its doubled in size almost overnight.

Information is expanding.

We Three Kings

Software and hardware - the tools to manipulate, control, and experience information. Two significant advances are already having a significant impact on daily life, with their full ramifications yet to be realized.

First comes the software. Information transfer and processing was revolutionized by GnosIS, a small private company out of Seattle. Using existing infrastructure, they've found a method to condense, expand, and transmit an exponentially higher amount of data almost losslessly. Their Osmosis operating structure may be open-source, but there are enough black boxes left to their system that a rival has yet to emerge. The short version? Text is retro - video, voice, and active generated response observation (AGRO) have led to software you can touch, manipulation, and share across the world in moments. It's almost too good to be true.

Of course, that kind of software would be wasted on an iPhone.

Argon Hardworks has released products of higher quality at a lower cost to make the most of Osmosis, and in fact, some say they must have had early access to the software. Their CEO and intellectual leader Yamajiro Ichiro would disagree; he believes their products speak for themselves. From touch-reactive interfaces to eyewear that creates a personal AGRO interface for Osmosis. Their GridWeave fiber (in signature Argon blue or many other colors) is often used as a bright light for inefficient and cheaper AGRO scanners to read for ease of use and remove the need for cumbersome keyboards, badges, and other "physical interface technology" as they call it. Which isn't to say they don't also make the best in 'conventional' hardware for Osmosis as well.

The last, and the least expected king of the day comes from a small company, Eden Software, that built a small free-to-play game with an open economy. According to the vision of their creative lead, Adam Xiao, "Gold farming" was welcomed and encouraged with an exchange rate built on international demand from the international and affluent 'elite set'. A perfect storm of open modification suites, play-to-pay mechanics, and early adoption of Osmosis-based code and Argon tech turned a small, but successful game into a sleeper hit and an international craze. "I have all this cool stuff, but how do I waste time with it?" someone bored once asked.

"Welcome to Paradise," Eden answered. And the world certainly seemed to like it.

Catching Up

GPS, open mapping, and an expandable basis for the world has led to Paradise claiming over 100,000 "rooms" worldwide - fully realized zones of active play. The world's cosmology has expanded and encompasses an ever-growing catalog of players, avatars, items, and creatures. But that's not what most people care about.

The game's "Tribes" guild system has been seen in use as a broader social networking tool, one of the few fully integrated to Osmosis. Workplaces, fan clubs, street gangs, and even weirder social circles are arising and joining up. The fact that Macca, the in-game currency, is easy to convert and fully digital has become a source of amazement, terror, and significant consternation by international banks, regulatory offices, and investors. More than one nation has tried to seize the Paradise servers, only to find themselves barred by the walls of red tape and bureaucracy only Singapore could bring to bear.

Reports of crimes related to Osmosis and Paradise are on the rise, causing a conservative backlash in many countries. The mysterious "Diver" suicides have only put fuel to the fire. The relative secrecy of Eden Software, who takes direct, aggressive, and constant action to preserve balance in the game's mechanics and economy, doesn't help rumors at all.

They can and do "print money". Who's to stop them from expanding in power and influence? Have they created a game or a sovereign power?

The Game

"The day the stars fell changed everything. The world got so much bigger, so much stranger, so full of new frontiers and new, terrible life. The cities changed. Our priorities changed. Our world changed. Now, it's not truly our world - it's theirs. Now, we don't fight for market share or religion or anything but survival. The day the stars fell changed everything.

It changed me most of all. Can you help me?

I’m…so….hungry… - Ricardo Cao-Alvarez (Age 17), Atma-corrupted, wanted for M15,000 in Equator City

The World After

Much has changed after the dual polar event, known as Event Convergence. Wars were fought as storms raged and floods swept the coasts, wars in the dark and quiet as communications crashed and fell. Economies died and were born that day, as records were lost, muddled, and hoarded. Entire cities crumbled to ruin, while others rose up from almost nothing. The world became a large, unfriendly place all over again for the human race.

And worst or best of all, mankind was no longer alone.

Event Convergence

The world was on the brink of wonder and disaster. Resources were crippled. Pollution was at an all-time high. Wars fought over peak oil turned to other, darker topics, until wars were fought over war itself, the newest economy. The great nations were turning feral and turning on each other, battling with stocks, bonds, and denial-of-service bombs. Everywhere, the hungry and the tired and the hopeless were growing and filling the streets. Something had to change, or else nothing would. And so, Project Eden was envisioned, and several philanthropists banded together against the world's decay. The crash-proof Nine Immortals bought and bribed and battled their war towards realizing this vision. The space elevator Kalapa was raised over the Pacific Sea, a monumental investment with an exponential return.

Newer, cleaner forms of power. Secondary technologies needed to make the platform a reality. Research labs and factories above the stars, all at the beck and call of the Nine Immortals. The rumor and the hope was that they were "buying war off the face of the planet, aiming for the stars". The truth was that the Nine Immortals has no intention of leaving this world behind. They simply wished to re-imagine it. Two projects were started in secret: Rapture and Eden. Rapture sought to establish a "digital imprint" of the mind, creating not only virtual worlds for humanity to explore, but a digital immortality to go with it. Project Eden, more concerned with this world, sought to refine early nanotechnology into a form of lossless fabrication - matter goes in, matter comes out. Both projects were showing unexpected promise as the years passed, watching over a world slowly rebuilding from the brink, driven on by its 'star of hope'.

That world soon died in ash and storm and wave as Kalapa not only exploded catastrophically, but saturated the atmosphere with strange pollutions, crashed the vast majority of the satellite network, and sent two large fragments colliding into either pole. The sheer extent of the disaster was sudden, overwhelming, and to this day, seem beyond the realm of coincidence. Whatever the cause of the disaster, the events were soon felt throughout the world. The mission control site in the southern islands of Japan was the first known location of "digital demon convergence", and there were no survivors. The scattered recordings of things beyond belief taking shape and killing seemed unreal. When Tokyo was attacked a month later, little doubt remained.

Demons walked the Earth. Though many seemed as at war with each other as with humanity, few showed mercy to any they encountered.

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Africa

One battlefield traded for another, one world of difficulty traded for one of demons. The great empires finally died in the heart of Africa, and the depths of the Sahara became an impassible battlefield. Tribes rise and fall in the jungles and the veldts as they always have, but men do not walk alone. Devil summoners, Atma-corrupted, and worse stand in small warbands and desperate villages, utterly in the grip of the force known as CHAOS. However, with every drop of blood, the ground grows more fertile. With every burned home, steel and diamonds sink down and grow in the belly of the earth. The sorrow, the violence, and the pain are raising a bloody bounty, but why?

Asia

Japan was the site of a second great catastrophe. All things considered, though, the country could be doing worse. Though Tokyo has fallen, surviving communities and forces in Hokkaido and Okinawa are actively engaged in a war to win back their mainland. They are the primary development ground for anti-demon weaponry the world around, and their tactics are some of the most successful in anti-demon warfare. Their battleships are known the world over: the Amaterasu, the Tsukiyomi, and the Susano-O boast unique arcane technology that protect the temporary floating colony of Izanagi with deadly force.

Much of the rest of the Asian continent has formed a shaky peace with the clans of LAW, though fighting is still ongoing throughout the countryside, as the lesser demons of LAW are no less bitterly dangerous than their chaotic counterparts. China stands as a true empire and turns its attention towards India, which has almost entirely fallen to a powerful CHAOS invasion led by human Atma users of unknown origin. Intervening countries either pick a side or get out of the way.

Australia

Few expected much of a response from Downunder as the Event Convergence opened the floodgates. Fewer still expected Australia to survive the CHAOS horde that targeted them quickly. Even fewer expected them to not only repel CHAOS, but to defy the offers of LAW and push them back as well. Australia and New Zealand did all of that and more. Isolated from much of the problems that plagued the world before EC, and with a surprising arcane arsenal of their own, the New Commonwealth stands as a point of hope against demonkind. No deals. No compromises. No mercy.

And for now, no immigration. There are no reports of successful smuggling, either. The few piecemeal stories that come back involve horrifying nightmares and the broken wills of those who chose not to go. Those who ignored the dreams simply never came back.

Europe

The old gods have risen, and with them, armies follow. Figures of myth, legend, and wonder stand and raise armies. Most Germanic and Scandinavian states fall to bloodless coups, guided by the whims of powerful demonic courts, out of view. Little appears to have changed, but the shadows grow darker by the night and stories of monsters in the forests are no longer ignored as idly stories. The fact that these fields and forests are more fertile than ever are clear signs of the gods' favor for the seat of calm and reason in a beleaguered world. Soon, some whispers say, the dream of a vibrant, open world will be realized. The Glorious European Union will bring that dream to life.

The only problem lies in old Albion, a renewed monarchy defended with arcane might, visions of ancient heroes of Avalon as their banners and bastion against a world that has forgotten what it means to be free men, deciders of their own fates. Albion stands in defiance and pays a bloody price across the battlefields of France and the Channel.

North America

America is fighting to save the world! Drawing on the vast resources on the Canadian front, they maintain strong garrisons in Central America and a powerful Atlantic Fleet patrols the seas, maintaining a fortress bastion in Greenland, aimed towards a final invasion of the Northern Polar Impact Area. Several PMC companies maintain their own independent forces, using the standard US military as a self-defending supply line. With arcane tech purchased at great cost from the Japanese Fleet, America is fighting hard for everyone.

And it is going to lose. The losses are staggering, morale dropping every day. Demons rip and tear at the foundations of a starving military-industrial complex, and freedoms every American are paying the price for a five-year campaign relying on one last desperate offensive. Like it or not, the North American Fleet needs stronger allies. The hope of all is that they find the right one.

South America

South America hasn't fallen. In fact, it has risen up as a powerful force in and of itself. Very little has changed on the surface. Resorts still shine with beauty and sex under the sun. Smaller nations develop stronger nationalistic roots and are gaining their independence along socialist theories and movements.

It is all a lie. Demons run the cartels. Demons run the political parties. Demons raise up old ruins and new facilities, enslaving the people nation by nation. South America is a hell of power, guns, drugs, and pain, and here, CHAOS reigns. The strongest rule over the weak, be they human, demon, or otherwise.

It is their paradise. In their eyes, they have won. However, they are not unopposed. Freedom fighters and guerillas live short, painful lives, protecting the last free refugees, trapped between demons and an uncaring garrison to the north.

The Cradle

The war-torn Middle East has long suffered from the ambitions of the rest of the world. Many expected the region to collapses quickly when the demons came. Their relative distance from the poles seemed to be the only saving factor for the unstable and fractious nations within. No one expected anything of them in the coming conflicts, and the grand Coalitions of the West disappeared without a word of warning. Rather than collapse, the region flourished. More than flourish, they took up arms.

The fall of the Holy See within the heart of Rome seemed an unimportant side note in the greater changes sweeping over the European continent. A tragic fire removed the last bastion of a dying church. When the survivors among the College of Cardinals reconvened in Jerusalem, it was seen as a last-ditch publicity stunt. When the Temples, Churches and Mosques of Abraham signed a pact of mutual defiance against the coming darkness, many were surprised, but few impressed.

When the united faiths took the battle to many fronts world-wide, offering support to innocents and resisting nations across the globe, the tone changed. The Holy Land stands as one, taking in what refugees it can as the fertile Tigris and Euphrates swell with life. Tensions have not disappeared; far from it. There are simply greater foes to face. The Purifiers, the most elite demon fighters in the known world, stand and fight against a great danger, using whatever tactics are necessary. Some see them as avenging angels. Other see them as a new, terrible Inquisition.

No matter what, however, the Holy Land seems primed as either a font of salvation or the final battleground of humanity.

Equator City - The Only Safe Place Left

The city where the demons don't fight - it's seen as a fantasy to many, but the city of Pontianak in the heart of what was once Indonesia stands largely untouched by the horror facing the world.

At least, if you can get into the gates. Beneath the grand plateau of the corporate capital, there is a second city - it has no true name, but it's simply called Equator by those who eke out what lives they can in the dirt, grime, and crime that surrounds the pillars and domes of white.