- 1 Africa
- 2 Russia
- 3 Elsewhere
New Johannesburg and the South African Super City: "New J"
New Johannesburg is a mega city in the truest sense of the word. What started as unchecked urban growth grew pseudopods made of steel, glass and compressed humanity, eventually connecting the whole of South Africa with strands of sprawling life and industry. Its surface area is immense, owing to cheap land prices and rapid corporate expansion. New J gobbled up Capetown and the other provincial commerce centers and capitals as it grew, and eventually the moniker of the city became a common name for the whole region.
New J survived the revolution almost entirely intact. The area was a shared commerce zone; too many different states and corporations had fingers in the proverbial pie to make burning it to the ground strategically viable for any one side.
While the infrastructure went largely unmolested, the cost in lives is sadly a different story. Fighting in the streets of Old Jo'berg itself as Armacor's Africa Division waged war on itself wreaked a terrible toll. Extensive use of chemical weapons on the densest population centers rendered large portions of the sprawl scourged clean of anything that needed lungs to live. As a result, New J's population is far smaller than her size would suggest. The density has remained somewhat constant, with communities clustering in areas untouched by the bombs, while the mad and the desperate try to eke out a dangerous living among the office parks and glittering highrises in the chem wastes
Circa 25 ACE New J has become a home to several eccentric settlements. This is not exactly surprising, the global network provides for cultural trends homogeneous only in their wild diversity, and with a long history as a planet-wide trade hub New J is even more cosmopolitan than most.
A host of settlements eke out a more or less safe existence amongst the silent streets and empty avenues of the city, but three stand head and shoulders above the rest. They form a network that supplies technology, protection and entertainment to the settlements of New J and the surrounding area.
Spire, The Tower of Lights
Spire is a settlement built within the superstructure of the world’s tallest building. Rising over a mile in height the massive skeleton erupts from a manmade island along one of the few stretches of coast not overgrown with docks and freight cranes. It was to serve as the global headquarters of the company that owned both the docks and much of the shipping that went through them. The revolution cut its construction short, leaving only twenty of the above ground floors finished.
New J’s sizeable Hiver community has taken up residence here, and turned it into something incredible. The nature of the island is easily defensible, it is connected to the shore by a mile long causeway, and the island itself is constructed like a fortress. Nothing can approach Spire without someone noticing, and the natural vantage point of the tower allows its residents plenty of time to react to any incoming threats.
While only a few floors were finished, this has done little to deter the relentlessly imaginative Hivers and Crackers of Spire from using their space to the fullest. Suspended hundreds of feet above the ground, hanging around, between, above, below and through the building’s skeleton is a riotous nest of color known as Uptown. Homes and facilities are grown out of pillars or hung by nanotube cables and strung together by everything from disembodied escalators to bungee platforms. The most common method of conveyance through the insane mishmash of architectural styles and lights is flight, whether by VTOL aircraft or more commonly bio and cybermods that allow a person to fly under their own power.
Beneath Uptown is the aptly named Downtown. Spire’s original owners only completed twenty of the above ground floors, but the building foundations are almost half again as deep as it is tall, and these were finished long before the above ground portion of the building even saw daylight. The above ground floors house much of the settlement’s land locked population, or those without a taste for the dizzying, crazy heights of Uptown. Up and Down are connected by a thick central elevator stalk and a number of helipads. Those same elevators also descend into the lower levels, wherein the heart of Spire lies. 15 floors beneath the surface lies the Reactor, pumping life giving power through the lines of the tower and its defenses.
Around 30 floors below the surface lies the buffer deck, a precaution put in place by Spire’s new tenants, as much of the iceberg like structure remains unsecured. The two floor deep security zone is manned entirely by organic personnel born ACE, free of corporate implants. The nature of the place has lead to a thriving community of Delvers who can move through the buffer deck to plumb the depths of Spire’s foundations and the mysterious facilities found therein. They bring back all manner of technological oddities and marvels from the deeps, but the nature of what the previous owners were doing down in the lowest floors remains a mystery. Aside from the all organic security force the buffer deck also contains some incredibly potent code scrubbers and localized EMP devices put in place by the corporate owners.
So far the only things brought up through the buffer deck into the settlement proper have been biological or purely mechanical in nature. Rumors abound of extremely advanced computer systems and other such treasures destroyed or wiped clean by the automated systems in the buffer deck. Delvers that travel through into the deeps must do so without some of their most advanced equipment, beacause if they try to return through the deck their tech could be scrubbed or fused by the draconian security measures.
Motorpool, NewJ's Defender
If Spire is the center of culture in New J, then Motorpool is the center of its defense. Built among the bunkers, hangers, silos and garages of the city’s sole military instillation Motorpool is currently the world’s largest Mechanized community. Populated by reformed mercs, uploaded crackers, entirely cyberized soldiers and the like Motorpool has become a thriving center for all those who have eschewed human flesh in this new era. Synthetics flock in from less tolerant settlements around the planet and curious delvers looking into the most extreme forms of cybernetic modifications pop in now and again.
Mercs and others brought with them an entire new niche. Machine shops and armories sprouted to handle the maintenance and supply of their highly specialized bodies. Chem bars and Current clubs crept up as a means for entertaining the Jar heads. The Silos house pit fights and arms bazaars, pick up a Gungnir heavy anti-tank railgun and then watch a pair of legged APCs sumo wrestle. Later meet those same two APCs at a Chem bar for a round of spinal taps and some old war stories.
Motorpool is the place to go if one needs the best hired guns on the market. Motorpool is the place to be to find every type of exotic weapon or ammunition imaginable. Mercenary Packs who participated in the Free States War, 15 foot long rail cannons prized free from a deck mounting on an automated littoral combat boat, mountings and ammunition for skull guns, arm guns, leg guns and thorax guns, all are available from the arms merchants in Motorpool. That trade is somewhat self-regulating however, and Delvers new to the area might find it hard to get their hands on the more exotic equipment. Many of the merchants have grown wary of new comers after a man who turned out to be a raider showed up and bought a few high yield mag mines. Those same mines were later used in a raider ambush on a merc column coming out of Motorpool on its way to the rail yards of Oasis with several tons of ammunition in tow. Since then the “good stuff” has been difficult for strangers to get their hands on, so new Delvers often need to prove their worth in the area or come highly recommended from one of the other settlements.
The settlement is also home to a sizable dish farm. Linked to corporate satellites and some truly powerful ground based radars the dish farm allows Motorpool to keep a benevolent watchful eye on NewJ’s settlements. Raiders tend to steer clear of NewJ for this very reason, only the very good, the very crazy or the very stupid tend to stick around in an area where launching a raid is likely to earn the attention of a number of protective tanks and assault armored soldiers itching for an excuse to go live. The power of Motorpool’s scanners is linked with a diverse fleet of VTOL craft, a good number of which are on patrol at any given moment. The patrol craft are often small groups of mixed craft, attack choppers flying recon and cover for larger transport craft carrying interdiction teams of mercs and soldiers. Should the farm pick up an attack force or if a settlement calls for aid Motorpool can dispatch any number of craft to deal with the threat, firing rockets and dropping troops in defense of their self assigned charges. The patrol also act as a way for ambitious delver teams to go after targets in the more dangerous parts of Johannesburg, hiring out space on one of the transports and arranging for a drop when the patrol passes near their area of interest. One should of course be sure to make arrangements for extraction, and to be on time when the patrol comes by again. They won’t leave you out to dry if you get stranded because your team missed the rendezvous, but you will owe them a favor.
Sprawling in the low-built scrublands in the uncertain border between megacity and the encroaching desert, Oasis is the first sight of many inlanders. This settlement crouches on and around the bones of massive transportation systems, the first connection in the webs of roads and Mag-Lines rooting New J to the continent.
Oasis, first and foremost, is a city of trade. Spreading the bounty of delvers into the faltering settlements in the desert in exchange for unfinished goods and materials to be broken down into still more wonders. The Oasis trainyards have lost some of the hustle and bustles of its hyper-automated heyday, but the vast warehouses teem with organic and mechanized alike, each one looking for a better score or a new buyer (or sucker)
Need to move millions of units of expiring ammunition recovered from a newly breached Silo? You can find a soldier or representative willing to talk. Eager to trade recovered corporate databases and, rarest of all, hard copy information for the annoyingly simple necessities that your own tiny Delver town just cant make for itself? well.. Our man from the office will be glad to look over what your had in mind.
Delvers and Hired Guns from all over the continent eventually pass through the tangled roads and lev lines at some point in their careers. Oasis is the northern tip of the triumvirate of NewJ’s major settlements, and thusly is the first most see of the massive southern megacity. Oasis’ largest feature is the Anansi Hub, the massive routing and loading station from which all roads and levs entering the city sprout or terminate.
The hustle and bustle of Oasis leads to a naturally brisk and somewhat unruly settlement. The unruliness can at times escalate to violence, but the powers that be in Oasis know that running gun battles are not good for commerce. Telling to people to check their arms at the gates is a little unrealistic for a settlement that has a burgeoning arms trade, so instead the merchants have formed the Anansi Defenders. Wishing to keep fatalities to a minimum and hoping not to damage merchandise or prospective customers Anansi men typically carry a wide variety on non-lethal armaments. Any delver worth his salt can find work with these black clad soldiers keeping the peace with a break open gas launcher in one hand and a stun prod in the other.
A massive trunk of lev lines three layers deep shoots north arrow straight from Anansi, gleaming in the African sun. These raised silver lanes are the Mainline that cuts Africa in half, terminating at Tunisia, where it becomes the Pillars of Heraclese, the truly awesome shining span crossing the whole of the Mediterranean, crossing Europe towards Brusselsphere.
Making the trip from Oasis to Brusselsphere can be an adventure all its own. The three decks of the mainline are comprised of the lower two freight lines and the upper “Sun Line” passenger route. Leaving from Oasis passengers will first be greeted by the jungles of the Congo, speeding through the canopy while guards keep a watchful eye out for some of the nastier bioforms. Once they’ve broken clear of the jungle there’s usually little to worry about save for the occasional raider blockade, but when the reach the Saharan Proving Grounds things get a little more interesting. Here the trains will typically meet up with a CAP patrol of VTOL craft from junkyard who will escort them to Tunisia and the Pillars. Should such support be unavailable then it is up to the guards and passengers to defend the train from raiders and ‘bots who have broken free of the restraints that kept the line safe in the past. Reaching the Pillars the trains begin the quiet and frankly beautiful crossing into Europe’s blasted cities. Crossing the large crater that was once the Sicilian space port and into Italy proper the line skirts the edge of Vatican lands (attacks from this quarter are very rare, but not entirely unheard of) through the huge factory plains of Germany and on into the routing stations at Brusselsphere. From here passengers and goods can find passage to England, or down through towards Spain and the coastal African/European Gibraltar Line, and from there they can find air or sea travel to North America. One can even, if they for some reason wished to expose themselves to that benighted place, take the lonely line that arcs towards the Russian Resource Zone and ultimately to Novaya Sibir.
The Junk Yard
Built on the ruins of a former corporate military base, in the middle of the Tunisian desert, the Junkyard is a small but famous settlement. It boasts the biggest population of nonhuman cyborgs and uploads in the world.
The entire commune is spaced out over the base facilities, with most newcomer residents inhabiting the hangars of the old airfield, and the older founders residing in the central underground motor pool. Most of the population are former corporate soldiers or Mercs, but a few Crackers in multifunctional utility and maintenance hardshells have also made the Junkyard their home.
The most famous landmark in the Junkyard is Ma Baker's, a saloon bar providing uplinked entertainment and direct brain stimulation to cyborg customers, accessible to vehicles. Ma Baker herself is a 14 ton light tank who doesn't like people asking her to show them her 30mm.
Since the base got hit with a tactical nuke during the Fall, partials or noncyborgs don't visit very often. And since almost every resident of the Junkyard is armed with heavy weapons, raider visits are also quite rare. However, the community lives in constant fear of EMP attacks; construction on a giant Faraday cage around the entire area has begun but is incomplete.
Junkyard's inhabitants have taken on responsibility for the protection of the Tunisian Coastal Rail Nexus, running patrols along the northern Main Line and providing security for the confluence of rail lines that emanate from where the Main Line hits the sea and becomes The Pillars of Heraclese.
A confluence of political and economic events would haul The Rock of Gibraltar, a nigh inconsequential speck of stone at the mouth of the Mediterranean, back into a focal point for world wide contention. Before the establishment of extensive maglev rail networks for high speed heavy freight movement, sea cargo held sway as the chief method of moving masses of goods and material around the world. Even after the construction of the new mega trains the immense robotic macrofreighters still held currency if only due to their ability to transport stunning amounts of cargo.
The method proved especially important for the Nation Corp Illium, who relied on shipping to evenly distribute their massive imports and exports on both Eurasian and American coasts. Goods coming to and from the East coast of the United States interfaced with the massive distribution yards of Volgograd, which in turn were fed by docks in the Black Sea. Increasing instability in the regions surrounding the Suez Canal made the mouth of the Mediterranean much more attractive. Armacor, sniffing the potential for profit and a chance to kneecap their largest rival, worked via contacts within the increasingly privatized British Commonwealth to acquire nearly the entirety of Gibraltar. This allowed the corporation control of the critical passage, and more importantly the ability to charge tolls on every boat that crossed their borders.
The Saharan Proving Grounds
The Russian Resource Zone
In the early 21st century the great Russian bear finally crashed to the ground. She had been hemorrhaging, some argued, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and finally the wounds had taken their toll. Systemic corruption reached a point of no return, and a nationwide agricultural famine brought on by an incredibly virulent phage that assaulted numerous food staples pushed it all over the edge. What began as rioting in the streets of numerous cities threatened to become a full scale civil war, and the world watched with great trepidation as the largest nuclear power threatened to implode. American aircraft carriers floated at high alert off the eastern shore while NATO troops lined up for hastily drawn up invasion plans, and China's massive army stood ready to tear across the Gobi and into the heart of the motherland. The planet's major powers stood ready to put the bear down, in the fear that its death throes might entail nuclear fire.
Then, at the eleventh hour, a savior arrived. Burgeoning biotech corporation Illium produced a cure for the phage that was ravaging the nation's fields. Dispersal of the miracle agent began immediately. Furthermore, a number of Ilium's subsidiaries began to assist the flagging nation in areas ranging from improved medical care to quiet paramilitary actions against major agitators. The world at large breathed a collective sigh of relief, many leaders simply happy that the crisis seemed to be over. Cries from a number of independent groups crying foul at the degree to which Illium and the Russian government were becoming indistinguishable from one another went largely ignored. The corporation had, after all, done much of the work for little profit, and had gone to great lengths to endear themselves to the Russian people.
What came next was slow, but ultimately unstoppable. The bankrupt and tired government of the Russian Federation made an unprecedented decision. Control of Federal subjects (districts, republics and autonomous areas) was auctioned away to international corporations, effectively creating the first corporate states. The first subjects to go were minor zones of little importance, but soon even major centers like Krasnoyarsk, Rostov and Kamchatka were handed over to corporate entities. The last zones to go was the Federal City of Moscow. Purchased by the homegrown Lukinvestprom concern, the only truly Russian megacorp, in a highly publicized and media-covered event, the corporate administrtion of Moscow marked the end of the Russian Federation as a state and the beginning of the Russian Resource Zone. Innocuously at first, Ilium undertook a campaign of takeovers and buyouts, taking control of zone after zone, expanding its area of control from Novosibirsk and outward, as far as Moscow and Siberia. Most of European Russia, however, was controlled by the EU-based Russian Resource Zone Administration Consortium (RRZAC), comprised mainly of London-Prime investment firm L&M Group, the German defense contractor Weimüller and the pan-Scandinavian Aurora Trust. RRZAC made St Petersburg their HQ.
International attention was once again focused on the Bear, seemingly resurrected but now wearing a corporate logo across her tricolor flag. Scrutiny was immediate, but both Illium and the RRZAC seemed squeaky clean. For good reason too, the paramilitary operations carried out by PMC's tied to Ilium and Weimüller in the early days of their involvement had been less about quelling riots and more about tying up loose ends in regards to Illium's invention of not only the cure for the phage that caused the agricultural collapse, but (as persistent rumors like to claim) the phage itself.
Ilium's southern neighbors grew increasingly nervous. China in particular had never incorporated largely due to a centuries old wariness of foreign companies, and the trickle of refugees from the RRZ told horror stories that seemed to confirm their fears. The Bear was being strip mined, her hide being methodically mined for the exotic materials that made the new world go 'round, and massive fields of gentech crops began to rival America's breadbasket in terms of global food production. Illium made efforts to hide the awful working conditions of its mines and fields, but the abuses became impossible to hide: anti-corporate insurgencies were springing up in the countryside, with the New Cossack movement leading the charge. The leader of that particular resistance group was an elusive, merciless commander operating under the symbolic nickname of Stenka Razin, a bandit king of legend. The Russian Resource Zone became a hotbed of conflict, the corporations only having a firm grasp on the major metropolitan areas while the great swaths of rural and wild land became lawless enclaves of mob or vigilante rule.
When The Fall came Russia exploded into overt violence. The populace of the cities rose up together with the rural resistance in a move that would be broadcast and mirrored the world over. Illium and RRZAC fought back hard however. The Moscow Arcology was silenced in less than a day by a voracious airborne hemorrhagic fever dumped into its ventilation systems, while Ilium's prized model city Novosibirsk turned overnight into a Stalingrad-style street warfare nightmare. Some of the aging nuclear stockpile was detonated where it lay, sterilizing swathes of Russian countryside, other missiles fired almost at random, a few warheads slipping past the Chinese defense net and causing massive devastation. Chinese forces hardly needed so much provocation, they had been preparing for this moment for a long time. They leapt across the Mongolian border and shot north, only to be greeted by the horrors that Illium's gentech had made of the Russian military. Russia's southern border turned into a meat grinder, air thick with artillery, bullets, disease and a few tac nuke detonations. The Chinese push was halted, the PRC was more concerned with disaster efforts at home then hurling more men into a hellstorm.
The Eastern parts of the RRZ today are desolate and barren. Disease and Fallout are the most pressing problems for obvious reasons, NBC gear almost becoming a necessary facet of everyday life in some areas. The southern conflict ground Illium's forces into a stump of a once mighty military, but some units (such as the infamous cyborg genemerc war criminal Kashei the Deathless and his ghoul army) remain active, alternately mad, murderous or simply trying to survive. East RRZ poses what one might call a penultimate test for adventurers the world over, portions of the landscape itself having become more inimical to life than any roving mercenary pack. If they can brave these dangers, however, the rewards may be great. Illium buried its most valued facilities deep, so great treasure may remain for those brave enough to grasp at it.
Novaya Sibir, The Heart of Darkness
The event that many consider to have sparked The Fall was the infamous Central Park incident. A corporate sponsored event was hijacked by a network of Crackers, and a film of a secret corporate facility broadcast across the globe.
That facility was in Russia, the penultimate house of Illium's horrors known as Novaya Sibir. Illium made its fortune in the biotech industry, and it continued to do so even after the effective takeover of the largest nation on earth. Russia's resources, once organized by a business-like mind and bolstered by the wonders of advanced pesticides, livestock enhancements and cutting edge pharmaceuticals, became an economic force to be reckoned with, and made the landowner farmer community of Russia a wealthy and influential class. The American heartland felt the strain most keenly, struggling to keep up with the well organized, cheap Russian gencrops. Soon enough the flood forced an economic shift in the US, no longer the world's major breadbasket it was forced to look into other sectors such as arms production and transportation technologies in order to compete. All this economic upheaval abroad meant two things. One, corporate interests were on the rise, soon countries were allowing various entities larger and larger stakes in hopes of replicating russia's success, or even in hopes of simply surviving. Two, the international eye was off the frozen northern expanses of Siberia, an Illium was well aware of the blind spot.
The most obvious atrocities were the re-opened soviet mines. Nuclear sources around the world had long ago switched to Thorium as a catalyst, a cleaner and far more abundant alternative to the more infamous actinides. Illium's management, seeking to consolidate their place on the world stage and diversify corporate assets, initiated wide-scale Thorium mining operations, and set upon Russia's vast oil and rare earth mineral reserves. They began strip mining the tundra, huge pits spread like the sores of some flesh devouring plague across the snow and scrub, choked with heavy metals and radioactive dust. In the interest of keeping the profit margin high, safety efforts were minimal, and the workers taken from the destitute underclass of prisoners, illegal immigrants and human trafficking victims supplied by mafia organizations. The death toll was unacceptably high, even for Illium. It was in searching for a way to improve the lifespan of its miners, and eventually that of the effective slave class across the country, that the Novaya Sibir facility was created.
A medical complex was erected around the famous Lake Baikal, already a trade hub for the region. Ostensibly in place for treating the frequent radiation sickness cases, the facility was in fact designated as the headquarters for the "Biological and Commercial Synergy Research Task Force". The group was comprised of the best scientists and medical personnel Illium could lay hands on. They searched for the best minds with the least ethical qualms the world could offer. The company feverishly protected its brain trust, RRZAC-funded industrial espionage, headhunting and the occasional assassination being a constant concern. As such Illium assigned a number of its best in house contractors as well as a few appropriated Russian military units to work security for the task force.
The result of this effort was an always brilliant, often obscenely inhumane medical research unit with its own paramilitary detachment. The BCSRTF, more commonly referred to as simply "Black Masks" (referring to the gasmasks frequently worn by its operatives) or "Plague Doctors" (since the task force was given access to all archived Russian and Soviet research on biological weapons, including the black plague and anthrax) became the most feared boogeymen in the whole of Russia. They were fed a steady diet of experimental stock from the hospitals of the country, but eventually they hungered for healthier stock, found in ample supply in Illium's prisons. The Black Masks made deals with underground criminal organizations and even anti-Ilium movements, "disappearing" dissidents and purchasing humans from slave traders. It was open season on anyone with an "interesting" genetic abnormality, but even seemingly normal, baseline Russians were used as sacrifices on the altar of profit and patent; Ilium had the human genemod market cornered, and more and more monstrosities were being bred, shaped and molded in the Siberian wilderness.
The center of operations for the group was an utterly secret facility constructed deep beneath the waters of Lake Baikal. Resting at the bottom of those frigid waters were a network of habitats and laboratories, connected to the surface by a tram line linked to the old Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope facility. Access was gained by a submersible down to the telescope, and then tram to the facility proper. It was in that inner sanctum that the most extreme of the Plague Doctor's experiments were conducted.
Given the atrocities committed at their hands one might expect that the Black Masks were pretty high on the planet's collective hit list when the revolution came, and one would be right. An organized effort was mounted to hunt down its personnel, and especially the chief researcher, brilliant but completely insane Dr. Priya Lal, but little headway was made. Common consensus is that the Black Masks saw the writing on the wall and evaporated into prearranged hiding places before things really got going. They left behind them the horrifying relics of their machinations, whole worker populations genmodded into almost unrecognizable things suited only for their designated tasks, the monstrosities of the Russian military and a trail of vivisected corpses, left like grisly breadcrumbs in their wake.
About a year after the general end of full scale hostilities known collectively as the Fall a signal emerged from the Novaya Sibir facility. There was an SOS, played on a loop, seeping from a floating communication buoy on the lake. It begged for rescue, life support in the submerged habitats was allegedly failing, and those that arrived to help would be rewarded with biotech far in advance of anything currently available. Several attempts have been made to make good a rescue, but none have succeeded. Environmental factors make even getting down to the base nearly impossible. The lake is covered by ice for much of the year, meters thick in places, limiting the window of opportunity for expedition to a few summer months. Most attempts abort before even making it into the docking station at the Telescope, hazardous conditions and strangely hostile wildlife forcing away would be visitors. The few who have actually docked with the facility either turned back due to the apparent damage to the station or were never heard from again. The popular theory is that the life support in the habitats did in fact fail, and anyone who actually makes it down the tram lime is greeted with a wall of water and bone crushing pressure. That hasn't stopped people from trying however, while the number of expeditions has dwindled, the promise of treasure is simply to great a pull for the place to be completely ignored. There's also the fact that the voice heard in the SOS message appears to belong to Dr. Priya Lal, "the Lady of Nightmares" herself...
The Moscow Arcology, City of Blood
When the Russian Resource Zone was first created, native corporate giant Lukinvestprom stepped up to take the reins. Even as cameras flashed while the key to the city was delivered to LIP's CEO, the corporation was reeling from the massive expenditure. This was an investment way over LIP's head, and everyone knew it. But it was a vital symbolic move - Moscow had remained in Russian hands. And many interested parties in the former Federal intelligence agencies, as well as underworld bigwigs, had placed their trust in LIP's ability to keep Moscow firmly in Russian control.
Lukinvestprom acted quickly, pumping money into Moscow's many research institutes and laboratories. The company became a think tank, hiring out scientists for projects worldwide. Russia's academics flocked to Moscow for a chance to work on dedicated teams, with cutting-edge equipment, in well-funded laboratories. With the intelligentsia came a liberal spirit, an air of freedom of thought and expression that proved later to be resistant to corporate agenda and spin - and as some would argue, that very air of freedom led to Moscow's downfall.
As Ilium and the RRZAC tightened their control of vital Russian areas, fledgling Lukinvestprom was pressed from all sides into ceding authority to the foreign megacorp interests. In the long run, the resistance it could muster, financially as well as militarily, proved ultimately futile, as Ilium agents infiltrated key board positions and influenced shareholders. The hostile takeover occurred overnight, and the population of Moscow woke up to find themselves Ilium subjects.
This did not go down well with the Moscovite population. While overt resistance was quelled by Ilium PMC's, the arcology's residents accepted their new masters only grudgingly. A number of dissident scholars and political figures left the megacity to pursue career options in RRZAC-controlled Petersburg or in other, more recently founded corporate states. The brain drain was tangible, and Ilium struggled to put a positive spin on the events. Installing the former CEO of Lukinvestprom as Moscow's administrator did nothing to quell civil unrest, and in the face of mounting resistance, Ilium's management began to discuss solutions. Dr. Priya Lal of the infamous Black Masks proposed her own solution, one that at first could not even be whispered in private conversations but soon found its way into board meeting agendas. The Moscow Arcology was to be considered expendable, its population purged by means of bio-weapons.
Meanwhile, several prominent figures emerged in the Moscow resistance movement. Free thinker and poet Ljubov Ryazanskaya began collecting the stories of survivors of corporate atrocities; she was quickly silenced but the damage was done; information had already got out. The horrifying tales were difficult to believe or stomach, but an increasing number of anarchists and malcontents took it upon themselves to publish and distribute the stories. In the wake of the quietly growing PR scandal a seemingly mundane and unimportant figure arose as the figurehead of the Moscow insurgency. His name was Ivan Semenovich Belilov, affectionately nicknamed "Uncle Vanya" by his followers. A for all intents and purposes baseline human, Uncle Ivan's calm, jovial demeanor belied the fact that he had once been a top-level intelligence operative, a Colonel in the GRU. He made no efforts to hide that fact, however, happily referring to himself as Colonel Belilov in official communiques issued from secret bunkers hidden in the Moscow subway system. His movement grew, bolstered by ranks of radicalized intellectuals, disgruntled security men and profit-hungry mafiosi. Even in spite of the increasing number of terrorist strikes against key Ilium infrastructure and personnel, the corporation seemingly ignored Belilov's movement.
Then it happened. The Central Park incident that sparked the fall began originally in Gorky Park, as a team of Crackers (some subsequently linked to Belilov, some to the RRZAC, some to fringe anti-corp groups - this was a concerted effort of many hands) took control of Ilium's entire global media network during an anniversary celebration of Ilium's reign. Instead of propaganda images, feeds from the Siberian mining operations (painstakingly collected over many years at a great personal risk by a variety of agents) were displayed on corporate channels all over the world. In an instant, a rebellion arose that would eventually topple corp rule worldwide. And its seed was planted in Moscow.
Ilium was backed into a corner. Information about countless atrocities had leaked irrevocably out into the public domain. The corporation moved, less concerned with the protection of its interests than with punishing the impudent resistance. Dr. Priya Lal received the go-ahead order, and within the hour, massive quantities of a hitherto unknown airborne pathogen with horrifying effects(bearing the prosaic name Agent IX) were released into the arcology's air recirculation systems. The death toll was immense. Belilov and his followers went underground, literally, sealing themselves inside hermetic Soviet-era bomb shelters with internal air filtration. It seemed as if the Colonel was aware of the bio-warfare plans. Was he an Ilium plant? Or had he just been exceptionally lucky and gifted? The verdict is still out on this, even though conspiracy theorists are keen to point out that Uncle Vanya's wife had died under mysterious circumstances in the days following the plague's release.
Even after the Agent IX outbreak subsided, Moscow has remained dead, its surviving population hidden in old metro tunnels, Ilium merc patrols and feral hybrid organisms roaming the streets. Delving in Moscow is a sad, risky business, but it does have its own perks; in contrast to other warlords and chieftains, Colonel Belilov is quite friendly to Delver teams, allowing them free access into the arcology through his territory and supplying them with rations and energy. Some whisper the Colonel recruits Delvers to locate Ilium's old cache of mental conditioning and behavior modification research, in order to find a cure for the killswitch placed by his former corporate masters inside his head.
Novosibirsk, The Liberated City
The city of Novosibirsk, Central Russia's industrial and academic hub, was where Ilium had decided to position its headquarters. Its corporate motto being "We build better lives", the corporation transformed the metropolis into a showcase for its advanced medical facilities and bio-augumentation workshops. Thousands of genemodded pets and plantlife were released into Novosibirsk (especially into the gated Ilium "Novo-alpha" and "Novo-beta" compounds built for employees), in a carefully controlled and managed ecosystem. Genemods took care of city waste, purified the air and water, and provided the citizens with entertainment and company. Life inside the gated Ilium was idyllic, where careful management of external and internal homeostasis ensured the welfare of its citizens. Well, at least the ones in Ilium employ; life outside the Novo compounds was much the same as before incorporation.
News of the Moscow atrocity were quick to reach Ilium citizens, even inside the employee compounds unrest and rebellion erupted. While Dr Lal's controversial solution was deemed acceptable for use against Moscow, Ilium executives were too afraid to use Agent IX right on their doorstep. Instead, all available merc forces were called in to quell the uprising. Genemod and cyborg armies arrived instantly via underground maglev lines, connecting Novosibirsk to all other Ilium facilities in Russia, and a weeklong nightmarish war began. PMC's were met with resistance in every hab-block, falling pray to ambushes, homemade IED's and traps. Rogue scientists released genemodded animals with kill orders against the merc onslaught, or took up arms themselves, such as the infamous ex-Ilium nanophysicist Georgij Antonovich Korolev, who rallied the population of Ilium's Novo-alpha compound in a very successful uprising under the assumed name "Georgij Svobodny" (George the Free). A statue commemorating Georgij, wielding his characteristic prybar, now stands in the compound square.
The mercs fought back with a cold, efficient and merciless brutality. Of particular note were the efforts of Ilium's Conflict Resolution Division 1A, nicknamed the Ghouls, under the command of Colonel Sergej Vladimirovich Kamenny, nicknamed "Kashei the Deathless" after an undead sorcerer of Russian folklore. The Ghouls were all a particular type of biomerc, highly augmented with cyborg implants and prosthetics to allow nightvision, wall-scaling and silent movement, as well as metal-rending claws for infiltration and close combat. Their bodies were skeletal and gaunt, with a high metabolic rate in order to fuel their enhanced brains and energy-hungry motors. In order to be efficient on the battlefield, Ghouls supplemented their metabolism via high-energy field rations, as well as by eating the corpses of recently killed prey. Kashei sent his ghoul army on a campaign of terror via the city's sewer system, and the Ghouls bypassed barricades and erupted from hidden passages into insurgency strongholds. Kashei's tactic was successful until day 4, when a fierce battle saw the rebels take over the city's water treatment facility and flood Novosibirsk's sewer system. At that point, the Colonel was forced to use his forces in a more conventional assault, however Ghoul nightly raids were still taking a large toll on the rebel forces.
Then, when all seemed lost, the New Cossacks arrived. All the fighters Stenka Razin had at his disposal were there. They had made their way to the city undetected, creeping through rural areas where Ilium had no surveillance feeds or security drones. The fresh batch of experienced guerrillas quickly established footholds in the city and gave the tired resistance a chance to recuperate. In the following two days, control of Novosibirsk was wrestled from Ilium, and as the smoke settled over the final battle on the steps of Ilium's HQ building, two victorious factions emerged.
The New Cossack movement, with its nationalist, bio-conservative and militaristic ideology, claimed most of the city for themselves, while the anarchistic, techno-utopian Free Nova Commune (comprised of former Ilium employees and city residents) only had enough strength to hold on to the Nova-Alpha compound. Today, the factions enjoy a peaceful coexistence, though the severe ideological differences have ensured relations remain chilly. Delvers don't stay long in Novosibirsk (since home-grown scavenger teams have already stripped ruins of anything useful in order to rebuild the city for its new rulers), but those who do, stay in Free Nova since the Cossacks distrust and dislike foreigners, cyborgs and techies and grant entry into their domains only to a select few of the Delver community.
Babel, City of Tides
During the events the brought the last age, the Mega Corp Light-Core was confronted with a problem. A second rate shipping company, it found itself unable to compete with the giants of it's day. It set out with a project, shackling its fate to the communication and solar generating satellites in the sky above. It began to build the world's first space elevator; a tremendously tall tower, stretching to the heaven's above, able to quickly and cheaply catapult cargo into low orbit, from which it could easily corner the market on satellite technology. The project started, building proceeded smoothly, and then the end of the world came.
One of the first targets was the near-completed tower, though none alive know who fired at it. Though constructed on the Indian Subcontinent, it's towering primary spire, which soon earned the mocking nickname of Babel by the more powerful corporations in the world, could be faintly seen from much of the Eastern Hemisphere. A weapon, some say a nuclear in nature, while others claim rail guns, nanites, or perhaps even a suicide run from an aerial craft, brought the elevator down. The lower levels were destroyed instantly, but the upper levels, caught in lower gravity above and the forces rippling up the superstructure from below, drifted out into the Indian Ocean, before crashing with a tremendous tidal wave.
The tower, built for the high stresses of planetary momentum and wind shear, somehow survived. Part of the substructure crashed into the bottom of the sea, while the upper portions jut above. The tower has been since been found, and has become something of a bustling sea center, it's surface extending over miles of the Indian Ocean. Known as Babel, City of Tides, it takes on travelers, traders, and sailors of all sorts from Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Southern Asia, and Australia, becoming an important sea based oasis.
Babel is powered primarily by a solar furnace; collection of solar connection rigs, still wirelessly connected to the dedicated solar satellites that it was intended to service in the first place. This, on top of expressing it's dominance on a the few nearby deep-sea oil drilling rigs in the seas around it, provided Babel with enough power to last well through the coming nights.
Babel is serviced by a vast shipping fleet, known collectively as Etemenanki . They serve as it's chief limbs, eyes, and mouth, projecting the will of Babel into much of the Indian Ocean. A collection of yachts and cruise liners to shipping frigates and once modern ships of war comprise the Etemenanki, endlessly questing the high seas for freight, personnel, and fuel. There are six main task forces of the Etemenanki, and each roam separately, under the command of an Admiral. These six, combined with the Tower Admiral of the Babel proper, form the primary administrative body of Babel, the League of Tides.
Babel's biggest problem is perhaps projection of power. Though each task force of the Etemenanki is more then able to hold it's own, with battleships, cruisers, and even a carrier or two, the physical space in the ocean is vast. Slavers, raiders, and rival warlords feature one of the primary plot hooks of Babel; piracy. Vast tracks of sea are no man's land, and the area has become a haven for those you want to hide on the run. Smaller islands, scattered from the eastern Indian chain, to man-made ones floating on debris, built into abandoned oil derricks, and carved from coral atolls, are hung onto desperately, with the survivors doing whatever dark and sometimes twisted efforts are required to stay alive. These ocean born frontier towns are armed to the teeth, and will normally trade with the ships of the Etemenanki, but when left to their own devices for too long, or prodded once too many times by raider, will sometimes up a mobilize, setting off across the open sea in a near mindless wave of killing and looting.
As dangerous and unpredictable as the frontier towns may seem, they hold the key to many of the great treasures in these waters. For just under the waves lie untold treasures, from pieces fallen from Babel in it's crash, satellites plunged into the waters as they lost power, and oil and mineral veins deep on the ocean floor to be pillaged. Many of these small flotilla's are built on existing constructions, allowing a quick, if perhaps dangerous, path to the secrets on the floor. Babel itself has established a number of these routes, with it's undersea superstructure and original cargo hauling capabilities helping in this effort. It is through this exploration of the ocean floor that one of the great mysteries of the entire Indian Ocean was found. The code name Atlantis Project.
An enormous conglomeration of geodesic domes covering about 70% of former Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, Brusselsphere was one of the most spectacular, most bombastic corporate projects to ever come to fruition. A megacity in which the weather was controlled precisely by a regulatory system, ensuring the best climate conditions on the globe. During the Fall, eco-terrorist sabotage brought down the climate control AI, baking or freezing several domes until they were stopped. Those areas are still cooling down, and Delvers are advised to stay away from the hostile desert and jungle conditions.
Brusselsphere used to be the corporate-government capital of Europe, and together with Londons Prime, 2, 3, and 4 it formed the hub of the great financial networks that spanned the globe and projected corporate power. Most of the corp headquarters buildings still stand, looted and gutted from the Fall times, but rumours have it that there are still undelved vaults and secret bunkers under the city. The old EUSEC defense system may still be active, which could explain the periodic appearance of security drones, armed and attacking anything that moves.
The Neumann Vault
Take a trip through the Old Midwest, past the Cloning Farms still running, endlessly producing steadily more devolved subhumans as their genetic patterns degrade, beyond the Archives, the vast multi-kilometre data warehouses once full of the sum of human knowledge and now just meaningless ones and zeros, and beyond the Red Zone where the radiation from the Goldmarck Neumann Wars is still strong enough to kill an unshielded man in hours. Keep going, into the vast fields of GM wheat, effectively unkillable and unstoppable, that turns even the flesh-melting nanite clouds into another energy source. Keep going, through the vast craters of the Megabombs, GM wheat only broken by the scarce few ruins still stable enough to stand, and pools full of every kind of pseudolegal chems mixed by decades of leakage and sunlight into brews so utterly toxic not even the wheat can grow in it. Tread lightly past the Sentinels, unimaginably lethal 'bots designed to be able to hold off entire armies alone, still defending the ruins of their homes. There, go into the Deep Crater, and you can see it; the Neumann Vault.
It is an unassuming structure, a block of some fancy darkened supermetal, five hundred metres long and wide, and a hundred tall. Look for the door, fifty metres by fifty, every centimetre of space taken up by warnings etched into the metal. Behind that door lies the reason for the Neumann Corps' existence, the reason for their destruction, and the reason hundreds of Delvers die each year trying to open it.
A relative latecomer to the Corporations, Neumann was a small company built by a bored megarich executive around this facility, an empty space occupied only by at-the-time advanced nanonic assemblers with one task; to copy itself, and to improve itself every time. One day, the Vault would be opened, and whatever was inside would be The novelty of the offering amused many of the idle megarich, and money flowed in, soon powering it to the status of a moderate Corp. They built other divisions and started work, and soon forgot the assemblers in the vault over newer, more advanced models. They ran into money trouble, and were prepared to open the Vault to see what they had cooked up in desperation, and this so worried the Goldmarck Corp, another high-level corp mostly specializing in nanonic assemblers, that they declared a Private War, at first subtle, then more and more overt. By the end of it, just four weeks after it had begun, both corps were utterly destroyed, and the Vault soon forgotten as the Fall of the Corporations came a bare month later, befor the radiation had cooled enough to send in even hardened 'bots.
Decades later, the Vault still lies unopened, its work going on far longer than even the Neumann Corp had planned. Anything could be in there now, a mist of dead nanites self-coded into deactivation, assemblers capable of rearranging the universe on the subatomic level, a vast array of pretty and meaningless junk, built to please the eye of a nanite swarm gone Smart, or nothing, the assemblers improving themselves beyond the constraints of the universe.
All I know is what the Vault told me. Seven hundred metre crater walls mean that this vault had the Corporations so worried that, even as their world collapsed around them, they spared the time to launch no less than twenty-eight Megabombs at this place, and that the Neumann guys were so worried it could get out they built a facility that could survive that sort of punishment unharmed.
I came to unlock riches, me and the twenty others of our Delve. Only three of us survived to reach the Vault, and the other two had died by the time I found the Key. I could have opened it, but never brought myself to. I gave away my chance for new-Megarichdom at the doors of this vault, and ran back to my Enclave with everything I had destroyed, because I couldn't help but fear what could come out of those doors.
I'm giving you the key, because I'm a dead man. Even shielded, that place was so hot it cooked my DNA like like a frozen dinner, and I won't last the month. The key's gene-locked, and can't be lost, sold, or destroyed, only given away. You seem better than the sort of bastard might take the key off my body, and I'd rather whatever was in that Vault went to you instead of some fuckhead Raider.
Just remember. There are some doors in the world that, once opened, can never be shut again.