What follows is a basic accounting of some of the largest, most influential or simply most interesting groups that operate ACE. This list is by no means exhaustive, with different ideologies and groups being just as numerous, if not more-so, than they are currently.
- 1 Liberty Factions
- 2 Social Networks
- 3 Corporate Remnants
- 4 Influential Fringe Groups
- 5 Unincorporated State Elements
The revolution that brought about The Fall came into being as a concerted effort by many disparate organizations across the globe. Various civil rights and anarchist groups, techno-utopians and neo-luddites, fringe extremists from diverse ideological and religious creeds and even corporate intelligence agencies trying to the end to manipulate events in their favor came together in the uprising. The war itself was carried out in a mad combination of planned, surgical strikes on infosphere and realspace assets and simple, brute mob violence. The rallying flag for the global movement, splashed across the Central Park broadcast and flown in the streets, was some variation on a broken chain in a circle, typically accompanied by the local equivalent for the word "Liberty". The general idea of the intensely anti-totalitarian Liberty movement remained after the Fall, but once the rebellion had achieved its goals, differences in ideology became increasingly difficult to ignore. Some of the more idealistic projects (such as a global council in which all factions involved in the Liberty movement were to be represented) had to be abandoned as squabbles between rival groups stalled the decision-making process.
As the surviving settlements struggled to restart damaged technology and defend themselves from looters, terrorist saboteurs and ex-corp raider bands, Liberty was faced with a difficult task. Having been given full responsibility for the lives of all survivors of the Fall, it became clear that a military task force was needed in order to provide security and to prevent disasters that could result from abuse or malignant use of dangerous technologies (such as the infamous murdering, by a rogue Cracker cult, of all inhabitants of Brusselsphere through manipulation of the weather control system). The debate and subsequent vote to create this agency was a long and painful process, and following it, many of the more radical anarchist and pacifist groups left Liberty for good, but in the end Aegis was created. Named for Athena's mirrored shield of legend, Aegis is tasked with the difficult and thankless job to combat the writhing, serpent-haired snake pit of threats, both foreign and domestic, that menace the free world and its citizens. This includes terrorist cells, rogue scientists, fringe cults, corporate remnant agents, raider activity or military incursions from the Alliance of Unincorporated states, as well as between-settlement skirmishes.
Aegis is a non-hierarchical organization, with no central headquarters. Instead, local "chapter houses" serve as a combined training, medical/mechanical and recruitment center, as well as a place for Aegis-booked Delvers to rest and recuperate before a mission. Aegis has no permanent agents, but rather recruits its staff from Delver teams on an as-needed, per-mission basis. The results of all Aegis missions are made public on the Liberty intranet, ensuring that no air of secrecy and suspicion hangs over its activities. This doesn't mean that there's no dark side to Aegis; individual operatives in the field have cooperated with criminal gangs or even slaver parties in order to further their goals. The conflict between base ideals and conditions on the ground is a constant one, leading frequent agents into an attitude of bitter pragmatism. Theirs is a seemingly impossible task after all, holding back the brink, but one they feel is worth doing.
Rumors persist, of course, that not all of Aegis' operations are as open and transparent as they would like you to believe, and that there exists a secret list of jobs and contracts only available to select, trusted agents. There is little concrete evidence to the veracity of these claims, but they persist nonetheless.
One of the most prized hauls a delver can discover is a previously unknown or not widely distributed technology. Hauling back a few tons of ammunition or foodstuffs can do a great deal of good for the local settlements, and getting a power station or factory back online can improve a whole region, but bringing back research, or better yet schematics and prototypes, for new technologies can have a global impact. These discoveries, along with a core humanitarian drive, are what brought Mission Ascension into being.
Modeled on similar programs of the past, this group operates with the intent of bringing the best technology has to offer to the corners of the globe that never seemed worth developing, whether due to scarcity of resources, local danger or both, to the powers that be. Teams comprised of intrepid explorers, doctors, and scientists venture into areas of the world where the tech level is as high as the late 20th century at best, and usually then in all the wrong places. If the automatic weapons are more up to date then the farming equipment, Ascension wants to be there.
Their simple stated goal is to take the most useful technologies that delvers haul out of the ruins and make them openly available. More directly, they wish to bring these technologies to backwater nations, if they want them, and "bring them up to date" so to speak on the fruits of corporate inventive progress. Most Ascension missions, however, refuse to distribute or develop weapons technology (as the founder of Mission Ascension, Dr. Herbert Solms, said in a widely-publicized interview, "people have the means to kill each other quite in hand, what we come to give them are tools to help them feed themselves and care for their sick and dying").
Ascension operations range around the world from the jungles of South America to the deserts of the Middle East. They move with little consideration for national borders or protocol, preferring to operate on a local level, and outright ignoring the prohibition of their actions by exterior forces if they feel their help is needed. They duck xenophobic militias and even Chinese military cordons to get their supplies and professionals through. Mission Ascension is vehemently pro-open-source, arguing that concepts such as copyright or patents have no meaning in a world where everyone is struggling to survive, and where all tools of technological progress are needed everywhere. Mission Ascension and its personnel (nicknamed Missionaries) is banned from entering all Unincorporated Alliance countries, as the bloc accuses the organization of being spies for corporations or "destabilizing ideological elements". Mission Ascension does not care.
Delvers will typically come into contact with this organization in one of two ways. Firstly they might be outright hired on as either security, guides, or experts for a particular expedition, or to retrieve a specific prototype or schematic Ascension thinks it knows the location of. Second, if venturing in the undeveloped wilds, Delvers friendly with the organization can always find shelter with expedition base camps. Finding these can be tricky, their locations aren't exactly broadcast globally for fear of raiders searching for easy pickings, but on a local level, or if on good terms with the organization, delvers ought to be able to pick one out as a place to stop and replenish supplies or seek assistance. Lastly, some Ascension Missionaries may choose to leave the organization and become free Delvers themselves; the harsh reality of the world often strips the idealism from an active Missionary in the space of a few expeditions. Still, even if they are cynical and jaded, most former Missionaries still retain a passion for justice and a desire to help those in need, and due to their connections and experience, ex-Ascension Delvers are invaluable resources to teams operating in unincorporated territories or other low-tech areas.
A group of Russian Hivers that have studied under an old woman called Baba Yaga in reference to the ancient witch of Russian legend. They act as spiritual leaders, healers and historians in the Russian frontier.
Biotypical Rights Movement (BRM)
The manipulation and modification, by corporate power, of the human body gave rise to a new underclass. In the view, widely espoused by corporate spin-doctors, but also by transhumanist activists, the entire Homo Sapiens species was defined as defective, limited, and in constant need of upgrades, updates and improvement. Those who opposed this move, those who rejected the technology or the great majority for whom modification was never an option, the tech-poor, the tech-impaired, saw their species-typical bodies and minds become handicapped, powerless and inferior, were labeled retrogrades, disabled and voiceless. We were a problem to be solved, or a detritus to be left behind in the wake of evolutionary progress. As part of the Liberty movement, we managed to stem the tide of technological development that threatened to tear humanity apart. But our struggle isn't over, for we must ensure that our rights as species-typical individuals remain unthreatened by any group or ideology that would plunge us back into the Hell from which we only recently emerged.
-Councilor Anita Gall, addressing the 3d Biotypical Rights Congress in Dublin, Ireland, 10 ACE
A great number of humans living in the Corporate states were modified with cybernetic or genetic augmentation. Most of them were enhanced for utilitarian reasons, to be better at whatever task the corporation needed them for, a select few belonged to the true transhumanist elite, choosing their modifications to suit their fancy or personal needs. But the vast majority of humans on Earth, in Corporate or U-States, were unmodified: "baselines", "norms", or "biotypicals". The Biotypical Rights Movement grew out of the feeling of frustration and disenfranchisement that the tech-poor, bioconservative masses experienced as the corporations turned from them in search of more lucrative markets. During the Fall, various cells and sections of the BRM contributed a significant amount of manpower and resources to Liberty's victory, and following the end of hostilities, the movement became a powerful bloc in Liberty, to the chagrin of other, more techno-liberal groups. The Biotypical Movement's conservative agenda has led to them being misnamed a Luddite or retrograde faction, but according to BRM ideologue and war hero Anita Gall, that couldn't be farther from the truth; according to the official line, the BRM simply strives for equal rights for tech-poor and tech-impaired humans, making sure that modifications do not become mandatory for participation in Liberty society or that modded transhumans do not lose their link to humanity, splitting Homo Sapiens into 2 species. Of course, in practice some of the biotypicalist settlements discriminate against augmented humans, and more extremist anti-transhumanist groups like the infamous "Take Back Humanity Army" ensure that suspicion falls even on mainstream movements like the BRM. Nevertheless, the BRM remains an important, influential and powerful part of Liberty.
The symbol of the Biotypical Rights Movement is a Vitruvian Man silhouette. During the fall, this symbol was the most common graffiti tag, second only to the broken-chain motif of Liberty.
A network for soldiers of all stripes, be they Merc tanks, line security forces or U-State deserters, acts as a place to share intel, post jobs and trade gear.
Largest cracker network in the world, general mess of flying code and viruses which only a skilled cracker could navigate, functions much the same as MilCom in most respects
A guild for the Hiver Glitterati, eccentrics and stoics from any number of fields and expertise can be found herein. Much of the physical activity of the group is centered in Spire, but there are chapter houses world wide
19th Special Operations Brigade, "The Hellhounds"
While some corporations survived by economic maneuvering, skillful information manipulation or cornering a niche technology, predominantly North American military industrial giant Armacor Holdings maintained its position through sheer weaponized force. In addition to its well known technological innovation in the fields of aeronautics and ground warfare, Armacor took steps early in its existence to incorporate and equip as many private military contractors as possible. In a process that began with a number of small acquisitions and culminated with the privatization of the American military, Armacor swiftly became a global power with few peers in terms of simple physical might.
Armacor's business could be roughly divided into the categories of arms production and security contracting. Only direct competitors in its weight class, like Illium, intact governments with serious military buildup, like China, or pernicious corps that played on the edge of their perceived league like Daibosatsu cold afford to run their own internal security forces (often bearing a closer resemblance to conventional armies) if only because Armacor had bought up all the available talent. As a result, Armacor not only controlled one of the world's largest and best equipped armed forces, but also the security forces of a number of other, smaller corps operating in dangerous areas. Consequently the influence they exerted globally was really only rivaled by Illium and the burgeoning Ustate Alliance.
Within the many subdivisions of Armacor's defense units, one brigade in the second army, forth division, appears on no official records. This is the fabled 19th Special Operations Brigade, known as the Hellhounds. While the second army was ostensibly Armacor's section for security for hire, the Hellhounds answered directly to corporate headquarters. Comprised of the most skilled, loyal and unquestioning soldiers at the corporation's disposal, they received the best equipment, and were tasked with the most sensitive, critical missions. They operated at every level from cell based false flag operations to full scale invasion of resistant territories. If Armacor needed a group or area subjugated, destabilized or made to disappear without implicating itself, the Hellhounds were the group that got the job.
Akuma doesn't exist. At least, that's what all records will say, official and unofficial. If you go to the Daibosatsu office in Harajuku where Akuma, its former security and intelligence division was based, you will find nothing. The building is gutted, all valuable tech looted, all databanks destroyed. Ask Aegis intel operatives, Un-state agencies and corporate info-mercs, and they will all tell you the same thing: Akuma doesn't exist.
But someone is delivering intel. Very good intel, reliable and accurate. The sources are obscure: a dummy body in Dubai, controlled by a shady Cracker in Turkey, who got it from an infocache that was conveniently delivered just last week from Bolivar by a Delver team that say they got it from a friendly AI in a sealed-off infonet section of Howard's Dome in Paris. Try and backtrack it enough, and you come out empty, no trace of the original supplier remains. Infuriating as this is to any self-respecting intelligence operative, the fact remains that both the corps and Aegis have come to rely on this shady source. For some reason, the term for intel collected from this mysterious benefactor is "Akuma". "I got it from Akuma" has become short-hand for "don't ask where it's from, but it's good".
Shady rumors and conspiracy theories surround Akuma. It is alleged that this agency, Daibosatsu's feared "security and internal oversight division", was the first to perform large-scale brainjacking experiments. That at the height of their power, Akuma had hacked the very minds of at least 30% of Daibosatsu employees through their implants, using them to spy on the unmodified. A persistent Cracker legend has it that Akuma developed a high-level autonomous AI to serve as an information filtering and control system, and that this AI took over the entire division by mindhacking every operative at the moment it went online. According to some, this AI and its thralls still persist, and this entity is what is feeding intelligence to both Aegis and the corps. For what reason, with what agenda, not even the nuttiest and most obscure Cracker forum will say. But know this at least, Delver: Akuma doesn't exist. And those who try and find evidence to the contrary often find themselves dead, mindwiped, or disappeared.
Influential Fringe Groups
Red Widow's Crew
Among merc circles and those who deal with them, there is one name indisputably considered legendary. Red Widow is a CSC merc, most commonly pictured screaming across the sky in a glossy lipstick red Grumman-Sukhoi Combine SGx-0 Air Superiority craft. Her legend stems not only from the fact that she is widely considered to be the deadliest single person in the sky circa ACE 25, but also because the Red Widow was the first human being to undergo a full CSC procedure - the very first brain-in-a-jar. The list of battles the former auburn-haired Israeli Air Force Major turned high-profile PMC aviator has fought and prevailed in trail from, depending on who you ask, the first NATO wargames to involve CSC pilots to sorties during Armacor Intervention Actions, Shadow Wars during the height of Corporate power to the by now mythic 20:1 battle above the Mediterranean during the Fall. For reasons open to much debate, Widow acted seemingly in accordance with Liberty's general goals, although it is unclear if she coordinated her actions with them, or was simply killing her way through some age old personal grudge list.
Regardless of motive, her actions rendered her something of a pariah among corp-loyal mercs. However, she has also consistently refused to outright cooperate with Aegis or other revolutionary groups, preferring to stay completely unaligned. This attitude has hardly won her any lasting friends in the free state communities, and in many places, Red Widow is considered nothing but an overhyped Raider. This, along with a never ending string of would be pretenders to the throne of deadliest merc in the sky have forced the rogue pilot into a life dodging the spotlight. Nevertheless, some mercs that prefer to operate independently have sought her out and joined her, forming a loyal warband that follows the Widow into battle, repairs her various chassis (the red plane being her signature avatar, but Red has been known to use more low-key aircraft, vehicles and humanoid doll forms) and run her mysterious errands. For whatever purpose, Red is actively hiring Delvers to retrieve old data (ranging from pre-fall advertising videos to VI prototypes) from caches around the world. Some take this apparently random interest in various information a sign of the Widow's psychological problems; as the oldest CSC subject alive today, she is speculated to be suffering from an advanced, rare form of corporeal identity dissociation syndrome (CIDS), a mental disorder that functions in its terminal stages like an extreme version of the phantom limb phenomena seen in some amputees, and can even lead to degenerative Alzheimer's like symptoms. It occurs commonly in CSC humans, but can usually be overcome via therapy, cortex extension implants and an extended stay in a single shell. Red has not had any such luxuries, as a CSC prototype who has rotated between a number of radically different shells the fact that she has survived this long on what amounts to sheer willpower is stunning. Those slightly more optimistic about her motives believe the data she hunts is building towards something meaningful, although exactly what that is varies depending on who you ask.
Delvers who make a name for themselves may at some point be contacted by her or one of her intermediaries, often with promise of a high risk, high reward operation. At times her operation will even hire relative unknowns, rarely ever making their bought help aware of exactly whom sent them on their mission. These jobs are often high paying, marked only by the fact that they simply seem odd, a large payoff for a stroll through a picked over delve to retrieve census data or some other seemingly innocuous piece of info. Sinister rumors persist that Red's group is not above paying for cannon fodder, selecting inexperienced operators specifically because they won't be missed and using them as expendable chaff for their own operations. The difficulty in tracking down whether or not the Widow's organization did in fact offer a job makes these rumors difficult to affirm or deny. Regardless of their veracity, quick, easy money always has takers.
Luddite is a blanket term for loosely organized groups of technophobes whose reactions vary from justifiable wariness to outright ecoterrorist zealotry. The umbrella contains such such tightly knit organizations as the Focus-on-Life reservations, who function essentially as isolated, self sufficient techno-regressive communities and enjoy protection by Aegis forces. On the other hand the dogmatic, violent Schwärze Blüten movement that makes its home in the few remaining non-industrialized zones of the German Manufacturing Parks actively seeks to destroy advanced technology, makers in particular, and frequently comes into conflict with remnants of the mercenary security firm Weimulller who make their home in the same area.
Delvers rarely have cause to interact with Focus on Life reservations, although it is not unheard of for members of said communities to become delvers themselves, casting off the anti-technological ideology of their upbringing, but this is rare. At any rate, the players might find themselves contracting on for a short stint as as a security detail on the perimeter around an FoL reservation. The reservations smart enough to accept such help are more or less the only ones still around. The tech level inside a commune varies depending on its charter, most are pre-industrial to one degree or another, but small scale experiments attempting to, for instance, replicate and prove feasible correct the Soviet Revolution are not unheard of either. Regardless of tech level, even early 20th century bolt action rifles do little against a concerted attack from reasonably modern Raiders or even small Merc packs forces. It is not unheard of for the leaders of these communities to seek help in excess of what Aegis allots for their protection, hiring out groups of delvers to either bolster their security during critical times or to seek out and put an end to one problem or another.
Groups such as Schwärze Blüten, on the other hand, while of seemingly little consequence on a global scale, can prove a major adversary should delvers venture into their territory. Much like the FoL communes, the Eco Terrorists who are still alive are something like pragmatic in the way they accomplish their goals, if not in the determination and zealotry with which they pursue them. Deeming such indulgences as power armors, VIs and modern firearms as necessary short term evils they can do serious damage, and have learned through hard fought experience effective guerrilla, raid and ambush tactics. Schwärze Blüten itself is the largest and most aggressive of these fronts. While Aegis and Liberty at large has been content to allow Weimuller to keep them tangled up until now, the dormant factories in the German wasteland, could if, reactivated prove a major resource for the reestablishment of human habitation the world over. If the "Too Many Umlauts" conflict escalates further, delvers might find a good deal of work either along the front lines or striking into enemy territory to secure endangered equipment.
"Eclipsed: A Critical Look At Trends of Human Technological Development" was the title of a paper presented at the First Annual Technological Reconstruction Conference, 5 AC, by an obscure cog-sci/neuroprogrammer named Daniel deVit. The study graphed a number of indices of technological progress in AI development and computation technology, arguing convincingly that had The Fall not occurred, Humanity would have reached the point of technological singularity; uploaded minds, true artificial intelligence, the emergence of a transcended post-humanity would have been possible had not the revolution destroyed most of corporate infrastructure, databanks and research labs. DeVit lamented the Fall as a disaster of enormous proportions; claiming to set humanity free, the Liberty movement had in fact doomed it to the slavery of a physical, mortal body, to the prison of a biological, imperfect mind. Having published the paper, DeVit went back into obscurity, dedicating his life to working on "cortical stack" technology - advanced imaging and storage equipment intended to create an instant back-up of an entire mind, complete with memories, emotions and personality structure. But the essay he published sparked a movement, Ecliptionism, that was to spread through all Liberty settlements.
Most Ecliptionists are scientists, working to achieve Singularity by advancing mankind's knowledge of cybernetics, neuroscience and computation. Many are Crackers, longing for power and glory, willing to sacrifice their human minds to become host to a new life form, the merging of man and machine minds. Some are concerned well-wishers or nostalgic ex-Corp dwellers, regretting the freedom that Liberty gave them and dreaming of the potential transcendence of humanity. In short, most Ecliptionists are harmless or even beneficial contributors to Liberty life. However, fringe groups espousing radical versions of the Ecliptionist creed present a very real danger to life in Liberty and worldwide. Few can forget the LADDER incident, when an Ecliptionist cult attempted to create a super-being by fusing a number of forcibly uploaded minds with an AI construct. The resultant abomination, placed in a salvaged thinktank body, went on a bloody rampage across Western Europe and was eventually brought down by an unlikely alliance of the Gibraltar Gateway Cracker community and Weimuller-remnant Merc forces. Whether or not the experiment was a failure is still open for debate; one of the last communications from the LADDER entity was the enigmatic "Free... free... the well and the wheel is one!". Even with incidents like LADDER being rare, Ecliptionist groups are a constant threat to settlement safety, digging in corporate infocaches, releasing rogue AIs into the infosphere or kidnapping humans and sabotaging Makers to create materials for unsanctioned experiments.
A common Ecliptionist symbol is a stylized eclipsed moon with an eye inside it. One often finds this symbol even in reputable neuroscience labs and respected Cracker dens. Ecliptionist Delvers aren't unheard of, but ever since the LADDER incident and the Glorious Release cult's unleashing of the serial killer construct Retribution-5 into the Sidney-Melbourne Metroplex infosphere the less extreme followers of this ideology find themselves increasingly ostracized and monitored.
They vary from dog to horse in size. Their physical forms share few constants from place to place, some heavily muscled monstrosities with slavering sets of split jaws built for guard duty, others are spindly, frighteningly quick and agile beasts that roar across open ground and tackle their prey. Baskers (After Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles) are a phenomenon that has its roots in the run up to the Fall, but they've taken on forms and roles their original creators could scarcely have dreamed of.
As genetic hybridization and modification became commonplace, corporations looked to predator species to develop chimeric organisms for combat and security purposes. The first company to create a viable specimen was Brazilian-based Fereira Biodiversity, and footage of the first public demo of Basker-1 is now legendary. A grey, leathery body, weighing in at almost half a ton, but moving with a surprising agility and ferocity. Its genotype was never made public, even after the patent expired, but subsequent analysis showed there was Komodo dragon DNA in it, along with bear, wolf, cheetah and a variety of different species including zebrafish. It secreted a paralytic contact poison and had jaws that could tear a power-armored soldier in half. But the power and ferocity wasn't what set the Basker models apart from other, more mundane chimerics.
Fereira introduced a unique feature into the organisms it developed. Every Basker could be programmed with a hard-wired safeguard imprint. The safeguard stimulus could be anything: a particular combination of sounds, colors, shapes, odors or even personal features of the owner (a popular Basker model in rural Colombia could only be directed and commanded by prepubescent children). The safeguard stimulus was kept secret, in order to surprise would-be intruders, and was priced according to specificity; the more particular the safeguard, the higher the cost. Impressed by the popularity of Fereira chimeras, other biotech companies followed suit. Weimuller, however, weren't content with just adopting a competitor's modus operandi; they decided to improve upon it, creating the Huntsmen: Biomercs with pheromone implants that could exercise precise control over packs of Baskers.
Huntsmen divisions, like Weimuller's famous Werwolf Gruppe and Armacor's Cerberus Corps, were top-of-the line PMC's. The Huntsmen, equipped with advanced imprinting techniques and behavioral regulators, used the Baskers' full potential. They could command chimeras to track or shadow individual targets, to sniff out chemical trails and locate vehicles or bombs, to flank, surround and ambush opponents. Utilizing the powerful instinctual cunning of these constructed predators, Huntsmen could operate with more precision and efficiency than any drone operator teams.
Following the Fall, the role of Baskers changed. The designs and formulas for Basker creation, including Fereira's revolutionary process for transcoding homeobox sequences, were leaked onto the Infosphere during the Post-Fall chaos, many suspect by disgruntled project managers. The Aegis-aligned anarchist group "Ciudade Libertade" took responsibility for releasing the Basker designs and producing the first non-corporate chimeric organism, the "Free Dog", a watchhound construct popular in many South American settlements. The public-domain status of hybridization tools meant that everyone were free to tinker with Basker designs, and the fall of the corporations meant that many military or security Baskers were now free to roam the countryside in feral packs. Some Huntsmen followed, going native in jungles or forests around the globe.
Unincorporated State Elements
It began as a small-scale guerrilla war against the Ilium corporation and its presence in Russia. Its members were simple folk: former army personnel from closed-down rural bases, villagers and farmers fighting against bandits and mafia enforcers. In the beginning, their operations were small-scale convoy raids and the occasional kidnapping of mid-level Ilium employees (no efforts were made to rescue or negotiate for their release as per corporate policy). Just another group of dour men in fur hats with Kalashnikovs, of no significance.
But then, he appeared. No one knows who he was, or where he came from. His real name has long since been lost to history, but he preferred to call himself by a pseudonym; Stenka Razin, after the bandit chief of Russian folklore, like the hero of old songs and stories. He quietly remade the movement in his own image. The raids became more brutal, the attacks more daring. The Cossacks began to operate closer to major metropolitan areas, like Volgograd and Samara. In some of the more remote sectors of Central Russia, they became so audacious that they moved in the open, taking over police and military functions of small towns and villages, setting up roadblocks and taxing local residents for protection money. In Cossack-controlled areas, mafia activity stopped. Bandits were rounded up and shot, their bodies hung on telephone poles as a warning to would-be raiders and rapists. The Russian public hailed Stenka's Cossacks as liberators. The movement became an increasingly more irritating thorn in Ilium's side.
Following a few spectacular attacks in which Cossack forces managed to shoot down a PMC troop transport, stop and liberate a train carrying humans selected for Plague Doctor experiments, and kidnap and execute an Ilium executive, Stenka was put on the corporation's primary hit list. The price on his head was unprecedented; whoever murdered the rebel leader would be presented with a one-of-a-kind, personal fission-powered Maker. Mercenaries flocked to Russia to hunt the elusive king of Cossacks down, but the man seemed unkillable. Just as Ilium was about to initiate Operation Wolf Hunt, a huge effort to search out and exterminate all New Cossacks in the country using a massive number of troops, air power and satellite surveillance, the Central Park incident occurred and the revolution began. Stenka was saved by the chaos.
In the days after the Fall, Cossack forces moved in to take control of large sections of former Ilium territory. Their white-and-blue flag with the crossed saber emblem waved in many central Russian cities. Seizing the momentum, Stenka rode with his forces to claim the prize of his campaign; Novosibirsk, Ilium's headquarters. After several days of fierce street fighting the battle was won and the New Cossacks set up shop in the Ilium skyscraper, renaming it Razin Palace. Stenka was installed as the Gosudar (souvereign) of All Russia and leader of its peoples. Of course, the Cossacks still had to contend with the various other liberation movements active in the country, including the Free Nova community which was allowed to exist side by side with Stenka's forces in Novosibirsk.
The New Cossacks are the most influential group in liberated Russia. They're a bioconservative, traditionalist militia with strong nationalistic bias. The Cossacks mistrust foreigners, and biomods are hated and shunned because of the history the faction has with Ilium. Cyborg modifications are more accepted in a utilitarian manner, but Cossacks do not generally see cyborgization as a good idea, and refer to it derisively as "going to the doctor" and "sitting in the chair". They argue that cyborgs become dependent on maintenance and medical checkups in well-equipped facilities, something that is impossible to find in the Russian wilderness and therefore mostly useless. However, they respect the combat prowess and ability of a cyborg warrior.
The Red Mafia
Now a conglomerate of many criminal organizations falling under one banner, the Red Mafia, centered in Moscow's infamous Metro-2, controls a great deal of the world's black market trade. Anything that can have a price tag attached to it can be bought or sold here.