Setting

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Evergreen, XXXI century

The Lesser Nights - or so we called the time when daytime dusk shifted into pitch darkness, and the silent dwellers of Evergreen hid themselves in fortified houses and locked their doors with heavy locks. Thousands of Lesser Nights, each colored with sorrow and grief, hunger and fear, things from which the Shield-Father could not protect. We waited for changes and prayed to God for them - and then it came; in an instant, everything became even worse.

They captured the holographic broadcasting tower - the very one from which, every twelve hours in every shelter, hope flowed - drop by drop - in the form of promises all-too similar to one another, or assurances of security, and eulogies for those who fought for our well-being high in the sky behind the Shield, out there among the soundless void. According to rumors, some shuttles, returning from that expanse, carried more than just the loyal subjects of Evergreen - and, alas, these fears were confirmed.

Those who had the strength, as if in a nightmarish dream, were watching the most vile atrocity imaginable.

Our Lord, our guiding star - God-King Enoch I the Luminous, who’d saved us, weak and unworthy, from the burning massacre of the Crescent Sector - was chained to the Griffon's Throne; the same throne from which he’d been earlier broadcasting to the whole planet, his message resurrecting our ever-fading will to live.

Now, the cold pupils of the surveillance cameras devoured and spat upon us a monstrous picture– at the foot of the Throne were empty cans of precious fuel (how little of it there was back then, and even now), and around them were the figures of hated criminals. One of them - wearing a military uniform without identification marks and a mask on his face - brings a burning torch to the bottom of the throne. Our God-King cried, then. Not at once– but I will never forget his tears.

They were captured at the time when nothing could be changed, and they executed these traitors at dawn. The execution, the cruelty of which was a crime in itself, was held at dawn - the first dawn in centuries. We did not embrace these long-forgotten sun-rays, nor their tender warmth. From under the sun-protective lenses of the thousands of people gathered, tears fell - and it was not solely because of the unusually cutting light, but to the death of our leader, hero, and God.

That night, the Shield fell from the explosion of a bomb, opening the way to all the dangers of the outside world. This morning, the worst war of all began.

Mourning the Night

Sometimes, a gravely sick patient feels better for a day, right before his final end. The pain fades away, his mind grows clearer, and those who care for him and had stayed by his hospital bed for weeks, finally sigh with relief. They believe that his recovery was a miracle, and their hearts shine with hope. This temporary rise is the greatest sign; it says that death is near and True Peace comes at last.

For Evergreen, a once warm and fertile planet, such a rise came as the end of The Great Night, for it had been choking the planet with darkness for almost a millennium. Like a dim disease, it exhausted the last world untouched by the Final War, and it robbed all of the planet's inhabitants of their will to live, giving them despair, hunger, and cold instead.

But unlike any other disease, the Night was a necessary evil. It was a side effect caused by a massive forcefield generator called the Grandshield: used to protect and completely isolate the planet from outer space - which was controlled by forces that were hostile towards Evergreen's inhabitants - or, at least, that's what the authorities said. Things lasted this way for centuries, but then... whoever planned to destroy the Grandshield was successful.

The Grandshield's Fall was only a small gust of wind compared to the terrible storm that would come. Harvesters of the black-bearded Soulbreakers had begun their horrible reaping - from small abductions to massive raids. They were enslaving anyone who was physically capable of taking part in a naïve and unpromising project to rebuild the planets that ceased to be habitable after the Final War.

However, in recent weeks, despite numerous successful raids, the harvesters appeared to become noticeably less in their numbers. This inspired the citizens of Evergreen to, once again, believe in the fighting efficiency of their armies, and the possibility of victory. Those who participated in combat, though, had learned the hard way that the slavers were, without any doubt, superior than the Evergreen forces. Deep in their hearts, they knew how absurd it was to praise the army - but preferred not to think about it; believing a comfy lie was always easier than knowing the cold truth.


We heard madmen yelling that the Soulbreakers had been scared away. Something is headed towards our planet. Something that doesn't know about mercy. Ivenek Rins, a Serpent.

The Conversion

"What changed me? I've seen the true face of our Motherland. It is Purgatory: out last chance to wash away our sins."

General Enc was forced to give a primal shape to the occurring changes - riskily ancient, but still living in the cultural foundation of civilization. And he rose with the new rise of religiosity - the self-proclaimed monarch, God-King Enoch I. His ferocious speeches kindled hearts, shaping the dream of a glorious era, of the Old Pure World, where people would be proud and life would have a meaning. The People, who had nothing to live for, began living in a twisted version of past, warped by censorship and distorted by propaganda.

These changes affected the social order - and the law of blood inheritance and despotism were introduced; only families that were loyal to Enkh received nobility titles. Art had also changed. It turned into the medieval times of Earth, making it easier for society to accept their new reality.

Religiosity had become revived and universal, and the "edited" Christianity had proclaimed hatred and intolerance to infidels as the norm. Secretly at first, and openly at last, the Holy Inquisition began to act. The crowd screamed in ecstasy when practicals put black bags on the heads of those who rejected the Comatic God. Victims of their own disbelief, they were cruelly tortured.

Inquisitors were friendly and compassionate, and the flame of their words always burned tender. Joined with the ice of the practicii’s sharp blades, they broke the will of unbelievers. Confessions poured out from their lips, and, with a smile, they stood up - as believers and loyal servants of the God-King, who was the vicar of God on this cursed planet.

Those whose will was strong could have been tortured for months before their mind broke. The essence of love is patience, and Inquisitors had plenty of it. But, when it came to the Thanati, there could be no mercy. The main enemies of Christ and the Comatic God, they were servants of Tzchernobog, Lord of the Promised Multiverse, who was equated to Lucifer by the Gray Church. The primary goal of Thanati was to implement Doomsday, which is stated to be the end of humanity. The Cult considered the destruction of the moldy, rotten old World as the only way for a transition of souls into a new, more complex and perfect place to happen. Thanati cultists used the entire spectrum of evil to reinforce their positions - from blackmailing and acts of terrorism to, if you believe the rumors, black magic. The Inquisition claimed that the cult was almost eliminated and its leaders had been executed. Perhaps they’d slightly exaggerated.

Upon re-inspection, the same result was found. These rotting souls kept growing in number, despite the tougher circumstances. Every third person was revealed to be a Thanati in sample #23. If you catch a heretic next time, I recommend taking his whole family to the House of Questions, without any exceptions. This will surely make interrogations much more effective. God help us if we don’t proceed in decisive actions immediately.


Exodus

"The time has come to sow our poison among the stars."

The Soulbreakers' onslaught weakened, but nobody knows for how long. A gigantic colonial vessel, called the Leviathan, is being built. It’s supposed to leave the human-populated (and therefore dangerous) sector behind.

At the moment, this space ark is orbiting Evergreen, guarded by a swarm of fighters. It takes aboard only those refugees who could afford such salvation, such as wealthy nobles, clergy and merchants. There are hundreds of them boarding every day, despite the fact that the journey will last for a few centuries.

It's not a generational ship. Thanks to the Red Elixir, which had recently been put to mass production, the original colonists will live to see the end of this journey. The Elixir is a panacea from aging, and its main ingredient is a substance called Zialcin. Its source is kept secret from the masses– but it's rumored to be located in the north of Evergreen.


Rumors become more and more gloomy each passing day. Some tell of a great threat that's coming from outer space - the same one that forced the Soulbreakers to flee. Some are claiming that the highborn are planning to wipe out every key object and big city on the planet– to leave behind nothing but radioactive dust. Some speak about nightmarish monsters, descended from the pages of moldy folklore - yet were nonetheless real. Those stories, which would have earned a more skeptical response in calmer times, instill panic even in the most rational minds nowadays.

The old order of things had frozen on its edge - and, in some places, it’d even collapsed; the servants washing with the blood of their former masters. Armed to the teeth, and inspired by their first victories, these rebels devoted themselves to robbery and massacre. They say that a troop of several thousand armed men is moving towards the capital, with new volunteers joining on the way.

Many lords have already left Evergreen by buying a place on the Leviathan. Others decided to stay in order to strengthen their influence in the world by claiming the abandoned domains. A deadly struggle is developing for those fiefs - some confined to the forgery of claims, while others lower themselves to threats and open violence.

The Crown rarely intervenes in their vassal's conflicts, granting them almost total freedom and impunity.

The Royal family has long since settled on the Leviathan, barely trying to control the prevailing madness on the surface from orbit. Not just them, but all refugees try to avoid thinking about their homeland. They are, instead, focusing on hopes for the quiet and well-fed future that awaits them ahead.

Today they took away the old man– the former pilot, you know. He was silent for weeks, and nobody saw him speak to anyone, or anything. But, yesterday, he climbed onto the stage of the Theatre of Regrets - just after they’d delayed an execution - and he began his speech. He claimed that he served on the AGIS, a recon ship that launched six months ago. He told to the crowd that there are other intelligent races - various, advanced and, most importantly, united and peaceful races. But we are not invited to that union. We have insufficient intellectual and ethical potential, and it's been declared that we're a dangerous life-form. From now until forever, we are isolated, he said. The AGIS’ crew members are the last to be spared. Any other ship that will leave the human-inhabited sector will be eliminated. That's all he said– then they took him. I believe him. I'm not going to fly away

- Dey Kallak, count Irenek Kallak's heir.

Chronology

ZAIBATSU AGE

  • 2023 – The first two megacorporations employ mercenaries to destroy each other's offshore soda bottling facilities.
  • 2031 – The Hays-Bishop bill is passed, allowing corporations to form governments if their employees made up over two-thirds of the population in a given region.
  • 2034 – USSR was officially established once again, with union of 18 republics from Greek SFSR in the West to Chinese SFSR in the East.
  • 2037 – The colonies of Mars and Venus are quickly expanding; this is achieved by high level of migration from Earth. Industrial reclamation rate is on the same level as colonies’ expansion rate. Titan Mining Facility was founded the same year.
  • 2038 – The United States is finally merged with Tri-Net Corp.
  • 2045 – TSV Verloc, running on the Lorenz-Fitzgerald engine, has made its, and humanity’s first, interstellar flight. Overall Flight duration have reached the six weeks’ border. The Colonization Era has begun.
  • 2069 – Tri-Net scientists have finished the development of the first human-like AI called BRAFFCON. A rapid development in the field of Artificial Intelligence begins.
  • 2070 – The Second Dissolution of USSR has occurred. The republics became independent but for a short while: during the following years they'll be shared between the Japanese zaibatsu and European megacorporations.
  • 2070 - Alongside the androids, whose minds were working similar to a human brain, appeared some projects of AI which approached information handling in a completely different way. The first of these machines were called TuRING-1.
  • 2071 – TuRING-1 was installed on the battle station “Ellison” as an board AI. One week later some glitches started to occur in all station systems, often with lethal outcome for its crew. According to a report from one of the survivors, the crew was eliminated almost entirely just in a few days, and the others became some sort of TuRING's toys. "Ellison" was out of control. After several failed attempts, which cost Tri-Net's 7th squadron, the idea of overtaking the station was dropped, and it's still in Jupiter’s orbit, ruled by the malfunctioned AI.
  • 2072 – Incident on “Ellison” was the loudest, but not the only one. UC (United Corporations) was established as a result of the Lunar Conference VII. Following one of the first of its decrees, any research in the field of AI was declared illegal. Operating androids were deactivated and AIs were eliminated or frozen. There were rumours that hiding androids were hunted by special forces till the 20s of the next century, and some of the AIs of that time are still active.
  • 2190 – The Third USSR was established with the capital on Earth by Immanuel Goldstein (rumoured to be a distant descendant of J. Stalin).
  • 2195 – Start of the War of the Sickle between mega-corporations and the USSR.
  • 2196 - A strong weakening of corporations' influence on the “shore” forced all colonized planets that were not in the structure of the USSR to group up and form the New Order League, which, nevertheless, is forced to establish trading relations with corporations.
  • 2222 - Due to the result of using WMDs by the united forces of the corporations, the index of life suitability of Earth fell from 35 to 7. The third USSR fell from existence. The War of the Sickle was won by the corporations. The remains of the Red Army that didn’t want to surrender would go on to form an underground terrorist group called “The Old Union”.

DIM AGE

  • 2240 – NOL, using the equipment bought from the corporations, begins expanding and through various methods forces almost all neutral colonies to join it, along with all the old colonies under the USSR's sphere of influence.
  • 2244 – It was found that an overwhelming amount of children that survived the catastrophe on Earth have visible physical and mental defects. Shortly after the word “earthling” becomes a popular insult.
  • 2370 – Expeditions, in which science vessels TSV Luna and TSV Magellan have been sent by Tri-Net, were met with success – first, a new source of energy named by the mass-media called “plasma” has been discovered, second, in the conditions of extreme secrecy, new AI prototypes were mounted on the science vessels, which gave good results.
  • 2392 – The positions of TNC have been noticeably reinforced: it became the first hyper-corporation in history; a giant off-planet government. Although almost limitless in space, TNC was struggling to hold its grip on planets, consistently pushed aside by NOL's influence. To combat TNC, a row of corporations formed the Syndicate.
  • 2398 – Spontaneously, the interest of the populace to religion rises. In Evergreen a Gray Christian Church is founded, remarkable for its pessimistic opinions. It was led by a 90 year old man Nestor Meknos, thinking of himself as one of the other numerous incarnations of Jesus.
  • 2412 – The ban on AI research and cyberspace has been lifted, which causes massive protests in the populace. TNC and a row of other corporations place a ban on demonstrations.
  • 2415 – The execution of protesting workers of Station 12AR caused an extremely negative reaction on the workers of Tri-Net; on various objects protests have been exposed, and almost everywhere the security agreed with the rebels. Following rumours, agents of the Old Union were involved in the development of the protest. To stop the rebels TNC hires a private security force – InterSecure, which from that moment on protected all of TNC's assets. Now the security force of TNC is composed of just a couple of elite troop squadrons and a fleet.
  • 2419 – With big losses, TNC cannot get people to work in their projects. A decision by the directorate is made, that allows TNC to take prisoners from overfilling NOL prisons and put them to work.

END OF THE WORLD

  • 2425 – A destructive cult named Thanati, famous for its massive suicides, gathers even more cultists. It is said by the cult leaders that the world will end in three years.
  • 2429 – Unlucky year for Tri-Net. Making a bet on multi-tasking stations that are V-class and using slave labor, but not equipping the stations with enough qualified personnel, TNC took a massive hit to its finances – protests (made by the Old Unions and by themselves), destructive “unlucky accidents”, straight forward attacks made by the Syndicate, and numerous registered outbreaks of disease and contact with unknown and hostile life forms – all of that put TNC on the edge of financial ruin.
  • 2432 – The cooperation between NOL and TNC becomes more and more close. The Hao-Gammon pact is signed, giving the League access to Tri-Net’s top notch technology in return for food and equipment. The construction of – The Shield –, an experimental planetary defence system, begins.
  • 2435 – The traces of a conspiracy are found, formed by an unknown force. Agents have gotten almost everywhere, where they could get access to even a shred of power. Not so long ago enemies: leaders of corporations, NOL senators, guild masters, leaders of the Old Union and other people wary of the conspiracy work for the good of one cause.
  • 2436 – More than thirty TNC space stations are destroyed by systems of self-destruct, activated remotely. Unplanned attacks of corporate battle groups happen to the closest of company assets, causing a row of conflicts. Attempts to find the culprit or a scapegoat were ultimately unsuccessful.
  • 2436 – Walter Enc, general-mayor of the NOL forces, receives an order to prepare for “quarantine work”, including some fast eliminations of more than five hundred strategic positions on Evergreen, and also the destruction of the biggest factories and warehouses on the planet. Start of an operation called “Screaming Hammer” is planned for January next year.
  • 2437 – Using his contacts within the GPC, in which he was secretly involved, Enc secretly distributes (including the military in the farther regions) copies of secret documents about the incoming catastrophe with his own instructions. He offers his own soldiers to be baptized. Those, who declined, were burned. Operation “Screaming Hammer” fails, as they encounter an armed encounter with renegades with general Enc in the lead and post Christian militia. A civil war begins.
  • 2437 – The whole situation in the sector gets worse. Planets get bombarded by corporation fleets. As a result of the protest, Hive, the biggest home base that TNC owned, becomes a fortress of freedom and resistance to the “enraged government”.
  • 2438 – A victorious, but destructive civil war on Evergreen ends with a surrender from the Senator. The senators and the highest military ranks, involved in leading the counter-revolt were publicly executed, neglecting the peace treaty. The executions were brutal tortures which showed that the tortured victims were indeed a part of the Thanati, standing behind the global conspiracy with the goal of destroying the world order. The loyalist of the Thanati got a choice – “Cross or Death”.
  • 2438 – With everyone gaining knowledge of the cultist conspiracy, the level of trust to the GPC rose greatly. A rapid radicalization of Evergreen happens, followed by threats on cultist members and atheists. Walter Enc, now called Enoha, gains full control of the planet. The government is separated between the most trusted of his followers who stay in power for their whole life and have the right to make their children the next governor. Not a single one of the planets owned by the League agrees with the religion-heavy course that Evergreen is undertaking. NOL stops existing.
  • 2439 – From the veterans of the revolutions, showing themselves as the most loyal and competent warriors, the Tribunal is formed – an elite squad, protecting the capital and Enoch himself, equipped with the most advanced equipment to deal with counter-revolutions. The Tribunal is allowed to hand-pick people to defend their own grounds.
  • 2442 – In Gahan, the capital of the planet, a celebratory coronation of the God-king Enoch I, the first monarch that was just out of the newly formed Holy Kingdom of Evergreen. Members of his family were named the Enhigov dynasty. To find and destroy Thanati agents, and also various other enemies of the crown, a “Holy department of investigation of heretical depravity” was reformed, earning the name of The Holy Inquisition, and its leader, famous for his brutality, Archbishop Leopold I.

THE ETERNAL NIGHT

  • 2444 – War actions in the sector, led by thanati nihilists, come to Evergreen. Rating the colossal loss of the fleet and the imminent defeat, the God-King gives an order to activate the experimental planetary shield. The planet is now defended from the chaos going on in the sector but at the cost of severely limiting the sunlight coming to the planet. The planet starts freezing.
  • 2450 – A big part of worlds outside of the Kingdom borders, in which miraculously there are survivors – aren’t great to look at. Poisoned air and water, burned deserts instead of cities – these are somewhat saved planets. Those, who didn’t die, had a terrible fate – sick, weak and deformed kids being born – fate of Earth repeated.
  • 2453 – Hiding from the cold, the populace of Evergreen goes underground. Scouting groups, visiting the much deeper caves, found traces of an old civilization that was once on the planet. As the scouting groups keep investigating, they became “sick”. Symptoms included losing skin and losing your mind, followed by aggression to healthy humans. Despite the visible madness, “skinless” were quite smart and sly and even organized attacks on Evergreens.
  • 2455 – Thanks to previous trade routes with TNC, Evergreen reserves were full of solid plasma, however the Shield (that also made solar panels useless) required a colossal amount of plasma. Energy became an expensive thing to afford, and the life of most people of Evergreen lands became the same as of a medieval peasant.
  • 2460 – The Kingdom Science Center has successfully found the cause of “skinless”. The substance that earned the name Zialcin initiated changes in the organism, affecting the brain. Isolated in lead prisons skinless stopped acting out whatsoever and didn’t do anything until they starved. With this it is believed that the sick are controlled.
  • 2461 – The biggest invention in history: thanks to further research of zialcin, something called the Elixir was made – a substance that stopped growth of the organism. After the first successful testing seasons, multiple boxes of Elixir were given to the God-King himself, earning the nickname Immortal. Using this substance to prolong your life if you were not the God-King was punishable by death.
  • 2462 – The storages of solid plasma come to an end. The Immortal King signs an order to form multiple mining shafts in the closest to the kingdom plasma deposits. The Kingdom Mining Concern uses up almost all of the war power of the planet.
  • 2499 – Evergreen’s surface is now two thirds covered in ice. Forests have mostly died out, the remaining nature has been mutated.
  • 2630 – The KMC, suffering big losses, doesn’t meet the demands of mining enough plasma. Under the biggest cities large geothermal energy stations are built, however their cost to build and sustain is way too much to make them the main energy producer for the whole kingdom.
  • 2669 – An experimental apparatus has been created, using blood that contains life force that converts it into electricity. It has been given the name Lifeweb. Being pretty cheap to make, Life webs were used almost everywhere.
  • 2701 – A small Eco-Shield incased Gahan, shielding people of the capital city from the cold and being lit up by an artificial sun.
  • 2724 – Negative effects of LW-apparatuses have been shown, which include: changing the metabolism speed on living things, lowering the lifespan of people because of rapid aging, and also mutations, the most frequent on wild animals and plants. Still, LW-apparatuses are still used.
  • 2810 – Because old space stations have been decommissioned, the remaining peoples of humanity that survived the Thanati conspiracy are forced to move to the war-scorched planets. However, the repair of the planet doesn’t just require new technology, but also massive physical work.
  • 2823 – Multiple large groups of slave traders appear. The biggest one – the Soulbreakers, are based in the Hive.
  • 2963 – Between the poorest people of Evergreen, like a plague, a cult of “dead gods” spreads, including idolatry and human sacrifices. The Inquisition called this cult illegal. However, they could not kill off the Thanati: for the last ten years they got even more stronger.
  • 3000 – After an accident leaving the pastor unable to walk, Ballidar Cons leaves the GPC to form his own school. His cultists are called consytes and preach about peace and give away their life to serve.
  • 3001 – Ballidar Cons is shot by an unknown killer in his own house. The murder investigation does not lead anywhere.

AGE OF EXODUS

  • 3007 – Terrorists have made a successful assassination attempt on Enoch I. The power now goes to Sherold VII The Fat, one of the many children of the Immortal King. A second terror attack happens as well: a powerful explosion destroys the Shield generator.
  • 3009 – In the skies of Evergreen the first ever spying apparatuses is spotted, used by the Soulbreakers.
  • 3010 – First attempt at capturing people made by the Soulbreakers occurred in Logos. 40 people have been abducted.
  • 3011 – The beginning of a big invasion by the Soulbreakers which immediately showed how the Tribunal is unable to defend against outside threats. The building of the Leviathan starts – a giant colonial space ship, able to evacuate the rich and wealthy families of Evergreen outside of the sector.
  • 3018 – Current date.