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 – For the first time in history, one multinational corporation uses mercenaries to destroy another's bottling facilities.
  • 2035 – Along with scientific and industrial stations, near-planetary space starts filling up with corporate orbital habitats. Influx of refugees leads to a scandal between Shoon Metagenics and China.
  • 2034 – The USSR forms again, consisting of 18 republics.
  • 2038 – A group of journalists, leading a high-profile investigation into the unspoken political influence of Tri-Net Corporation in the United States, dies in a plane crash.
  • 2041 – Adoption by the UN of the Hayes-Bishop bill, which secured the independence of space habitats from governments of the Earth, equating mega-corporations that govern them with states.
  • 2053 – Research bases on Mars and Venus turn into colonies. Industrial development of the Moon and asteroids begins. First mining base established on Titan.
  • 2069 – Leibware Corporation develops an artificial intelligence called Braffcon with cognitive abilities equaling human brain. A 100-fold increase in the number of neurons is predicted by 2075.
  • 2076 – "Verloc", a spaceship powered by a Lorenz-Fitzgerald engine, makes the first interstellar flight in human history. Its duration was only six weeks. The era of space colonization has begun.
  • 2090 – Peaceful dissolution of the second USSR - according to rumors, one of the superintelligences was behind the series of crises that led to its collapse. A number of independent states forms on the ruins of the Union; in the coming years they will come under the "silk yoke" - control of the Japanese zaibatsu.
  • 2094 – The superintelligence Turing-O, which has shown itself to be completely safe in all simulation experiments, is installed on the TNC "Ellison" battle station as an onboard AI. A number of accidents is followed by the open seizure of the station and the death of the crew. After several unsuccessful attempts, costing Tri-Net entire 7th Squadron, the idea of retaking "Ellison" station was discarded and it is still orbiting Jupiter under the dominion of a sinister AI.
  • 2095 – Incident on “Ellison” was the loudest, but not the only one. A treaty signed by most corporations and governments includes bans on AI research and cyberspace simulations, as well as partial bans on robotics. Operating androids are deactivated, AIs are stopped or frozen; there is a rumor that special forces hunted the hiding androids till the 20s of the next century, and some of the AIs of that time are still active.
  • 2101 – Singularity Collapse becomes a well documented concept - a sharp slowdown in progress and economic development due to new restrictions.
  • 2131 – The third USSR forms on Earth: in a matter of months, most of Asia joins in. The founder and leader is Immanuel Goldstein.
  • 2132 – The construction of the first Wormgates, which greatly facilitated space travel compared to the L-F engine: there was no longer a need to wait for the interstellar "window" for months. Formation of the Crescent Sector - a network of stars with habitable planets connected by wormgates.
  • 2134 – Members of the Martian revolutionary movement "Red Will" make an attempt to take over TNC's base on Phobos. The raid is followed by thermonuclear bombardment of Mars and its transfer to the peacekeeping control of Tri-Net.
  • 2194 – Neo-communist revolution achieves success in five states of the US. Soviet troops begin intervention.
  • 2196 – A number of planets that did not enter the USSR are concerned about both revolutionary activities and corporate pressure. Long since on good terms, they form the New Order League, headquartered on Evergreen, focused on maximum integration and independence from external partners.
  • 2212 – Workers and equipment of the largest Sense-Center have been evacuated from Tehran to the planet Isfet, which becomes the new heart of the psionic industry.
  • 2214 – Earth states have come under complete control of the Party. The fugitives rushed both into space and into underwater shelters.
  • 2217 – The War of the Sickle begins between the mega-corporations and the Soviet Union. NOL, while not participating in hostilities, still actively helps "corpses" with supplies.

DIM AGE

  • 2222 – As the result of WMDs use, Earth's planetary habitability index falls from 35 to 7. The third USSR ceased to exist, the War of the Sickle ended with the complete victory of corporations. The remnants of the Red Army who did not want to surrender would go on to form an underground terrorist group called “The Old Union”.
  • 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 – Expedition, in which Tri-Net corporation sent TNC Magellan research vessel, achieves success - previously only a hypothetical element, Elerium-115 was located in Zoisha system. Using it to generate colossal amounts of energy did not require huge resources and temperatures. Another energy revolution has begun - the replacement of the helium-3 thermonuclear fusion by reactors with a new element.
  • 2372 - Secret use of a new AI prototype aboard TNC Magellan has been made public. Thanks to the control of Elerium supply, the corporation got off with minor sanctions from the League and independent planets. All the blame was placed on the grand director of the research department, Shamil Morrow, who was destroyed that same year, along with all the spare copies.
  • 2392 – The position of Tri-Net has significantly strengthened: it was called the first hyper-corporation in history. Even earlier, an influential company could compete with NOL. This is precisely what the increasing and increasingly tragic cases of sabotage are associated with: competitors secretly coordinated efforts against the growing giant. Unlike the citizens of the new planets, the employees of Tri-Net did not have patriotic feelings, and much easier "lost their way".
  • 2394  – Sociologists note an increase in nihilistic tendencies in the new "humanity without roots": whole peoples and cultures have gone along with the Earth, the heritage of the race has burned down with the planet-zero. The future in the mass consciousness is increasingly portrayed as a sterile routine. The percentage of patients with severe mental disorders is steadily growing, despite the new neurocorrection procedures.
  • 2398 – Population of the sector becomes obsessed with religious ideas. The Gray Christian Church forms on Evergreen, notable for its radical and extremely pessimistic views. It is founded by 90-year-old Nestor Meknos, who considers himself one of the countless incarnations of Christ.
  • 2412 – An agreement signed by NOL, Leibware, TNC and a number of other corporations lifts a global ban on research in the field of AI and cyberspace, which causes massive public outcry.
  • 2415 – The execution of the striking workers at TNC-12-AR station caused an extremely negative reaction from the employees of Tri-Net; riots broke out on many objects, and the security often sided with the rebels. According to rumors, not only enemy corporations, but also agents of the still dangerous Old Union played a significant role in inciting this conflict. To suppress the riot, the corporation resorts to purchase and takeover of a private security company, IntenSecure, whose genetically engineered operatives now provide protection for TNC facilities. The TNC Security Force now consists of only a few elite units and a fleet.
  • 2419 – Due to heavy losses, TNC is unable to adequately staff most of its frontier objects. The Directorate approves the widespread use of prisoners labor, who are often taken from the overcrowded NOL prisons. In parallel, corporate own development in the field of genetic engineering and cloning begins.

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 elerium, however the Shield (that also made solar panels useless) required a colossal amount of it. 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 elerium come to an end. The Immortal King signs an order to form multiple mining shafts in the closest to the kingdom elerium deposits. The Royal 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 RMC, suffering heavy losses, doesn’t meet the demands of mining enough elerium. 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 – As old space stations slowly fall apart, the remnants of humanity that survived the Thanati conspiracy are forced to move to the war-scorched planets. However, the restoration of those planets requires not just advanced technology, but also a massive amount of physical labor.
  • 2823 – Multiple large groups of slave traders appear. The biggest one – the Soulbreakers, is based in the Hive.
  • 2828 – The Concern's bases come under attack. The surviving personnel is captured and sent to the planets as slaves.
  • 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 successfully assassinated Enoch I. The crown now passes to Sherold VII The Fat, one of the many children of the Immortal King. A second terror attack occurs as well: a powerful explosion destroys the ancient Shield generator.
  • 3009 – In the skies of Evergreen the first ever spying apparatuses is spotted, used by the Soulbreakers.
  • 3010 – The first raid conducted by the Soulbreakers occurs in Logos. 40 people are abducted.
  • 3011 – The beginning of an invasion by the Soulbreakers which immediately showed that the Tribunal are 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.
  • 3014 – The new king's less friendly attitude towards consytes causes them to be persecuted in most regions. However, after Bishop Noshak organized an arson in one of the Temples of Unity, taking lives of about thirty consytes, the royal government reluctantly started to reason the troublemakers.
  • 3017 –  Duke Gillis the Godless, sentenced to death in absentia for public speaking against the admissibility of Sherold (or anyone other than Enoch the Immortal) to bear the title of God King, escapes capture and starts open rebellion.
  • 3020 – Current date.