Money Makes the World Go Round

Well not quite. It should be made clear from that start that, in this post-apocalyptic world riddled with magic and mayhem that we experience in Sojourners in Shadow, there is no global currency. There is nothing that everyone uses. People barter, that happens everywhere. If you want to trade then you need to be able to give up something yourself. But the world contains patches of civilisation, and in those money has taken some form. So here I’ll explain them: each place, each type, and give some kind of context and history about them.

The first place to start has to be Trade Island. As the name suggests, trade is the main aim, and while you can barter and swap goods, a form of money had to come about. Now if you’re a high up and wealthy member of a business family, then a credit note is all you need. These are worth whatever is written on them, because everyone knows you have that money, so if words say you’re giving that to someone else, you are. It also helps that the families all keep their main wealth in the same bank, the Vault, so dealing with each other is literally no more than moving numbers about. Others can use credit notes too, but you had better be someone of worth, otherwise you could end up eating that note. Or worse.

As for a more menial form of money, something that looks pretty but is not really valuable, then people use gems. These are small crystals, not like anything of this world as we know it today, and that’s because gleaners make them. Literally. Gems are gleaner shit. They often leave their, well, leavings about their caves and tunnels to give off a small glimmer of reflected light. Gleaners see better in the dark than most monsters but they don’t fully see in it. Whatever their cause and use, the people of Trade Island handle these daily, buying goods. Some know where they came from. Most don’t. Most don’t want to know nor care to. In Trade Island, handling gems is the least of the dirty tasks you’ll have to do to get by.

In many places money has developed where humans are maintaining communities, especially small forms of civilisation. In essence, if things are in order and people are trying to trade and grow, then a currency is created.

In Central Asia, across the steppes, where many tribes and gatherings have merged, the people have developed coins. At first, they were made of precious metals, but over time they used cheaper things and were pledges, as in I don’t have this money to buy, but if you give this to someone else in my tribe, they will give you something. Tribes and groups had coins that had the names of their leaders on, as a sign or promise that they were supporting this pledge. You would use a coin to buy something and any problems later on could be taken to the leader himself and he might pay up, or at least see recompense made. This gave the leaders more prestige, and also more power. This led to a counter move by certain richer people, who began to make their own coins and give them out, and people used them as they knew these had the wealth to back up the offer. These people were also looking for a currency that could be used beyond each tribe, as more and more were moving closer together to avoid enemies, and more were trading together. This is what led to the rise of the kulaks, the merchant class that now has power without being leaders or elders. By now, most coins are cheap metal with kulak family names on, and are handed about and taken as worth, and so, while people still barter, the wealthy have a form of power over others.

The Deliverer is a ship, stranded in the Pacific Ocean. To be honest, it is three ships, but they have been fixed together so long the humans living there see it as one. They are a practical people, surviving by working together, so for them, you mainly get what your role earns. Everyone is meant to contribute. Yet some tokens were made long ago, small bits of scrap metal cut and stamped by machinery. There’s nothing fancy about them, they have numbers for value on, and marks from the machines down below to prove they’re authentic. You have any and you can hand them over to buy yourself something special once in a while, to get a bit more than your role in the ship earns you. Some frown on them, wondering why they’re still around when they haven’t been made in a long time. In a way, it is an expression of individuality within the community. Most likely that’s why their production was ceased.

The Northern Federation, because it has had to grow, regrow and develop, has dabbled in money a few times before now. At one point wooden tokens were currency, once you had etched your name and debt on. Some still use these, mostly in the villages. In the cities they have gone back to coins and notes. Oddly enough, there is a direct parallel with the market towns of Europe across the sea. While the Northern Federation are together, the cities themselves tend to compete. Each produces money with their name on. They are all acceptable across the region, but it has become a matter of pride for each city. Carthage was the first to make coins with its name on. It pushed them to the other cities with a passion, seeking its place as first city, which it gained. After a while, the other cities fought back with their own coins, but this had to be negotiated. Basically, the coins, and later the paper notes, had to be the same value across the Federation, and all were to be accepted. Money could be used to promote pride in your home city, but it couldn’t actually become an act of independence. Also, while it was never made official, the Carthaginian coinage was favoured. By now, notes and coins are commonplace, the first called dollars, the latter, which are bronze metal, are pennies.

The Mediterranean market towns are developing money. At first people made coins to try and pay for things, but as market towns grew and became known settlements, they were able to make their own coins. People in those places were commanded to accept them as money, and so others began to do so, knowing they can be used there. Barter still goes on, but more towns are producing coins and as their trade and influence spreads, so does the coins. Funnily, pirates have been a big boost in this. By robbing the merchants of the Mediterranean, they’re the ones first responsible for taking coins to other places, and exchanging them with other coins.

The Coalition of the South has money that harks back to the era before the Shadow World. Back then, the region was an important trading nation and it did well, the perfectly placed go-between for other countries. In that time, the rand and cents were currency, and the people today remember such things, and more. They use paper notes, called rand but sometimes dollars too, and cents are the coins, which look gold, hearkening back to the glorious trade era. The cities of the Coalition are more inland and secluded, unlike those of the Northern Federation, so their money has yet to be taken abroad. Perhaps soon.

A final mention goes to Australasia, where they have notes and coins as well. When the nation was formed, including the Aussies, the Brits, the Americans and the Japanese, they had to agree to a currency to share, to include them all and maintain equality. The easiest thing to do was to stick with Aussie dollars and cents. They’re not the same as today, obviously, but called the same and used for the same purposes. Only in the wilder central areas would anyone think of bartering instead of just delving into their wallet. Oh, it should also be mentioned that some Americans and Brits use old slang for coins, such as dimes and shillings.

Those are the major realms and communities where money has emerged once again. New, and yet fulfilling an old purpose. The more humans spread and interact, the more they need stable forms of currency to work with. So far there is nothing that works around the world. It is too fractured a place. It can be pointed out that bullets, fuel or food are forms of currency, far more sought after than most coins on a global scale. But as time passes and more groups become organised, these forms of money can begin to overlap. Already Mediterranean settlements work with money from the Northern Federation, and vice versa. As the two sides get to know each other, it is possible the merchants will push for a common currency. Others might well oppose it.

Many places around the world have no need for money. Cyborg sects are fighting a constant war for the betterment of the human race, so getting paid or buying goods isn’t even considered, not even among the less united groups. When a power rules, there rarely develops a need for money so at Constantinople the military takes as it likes, although some settlements of mutants are beginning to trade secretly with other places. Eden is a place of science, faith and unity, so wealth is abhorrent, and in the religiously inspired Octagon State in Texas, the love of money is still seen as the root of all evil.

Perhaps those people are right, perhaps not. With money, people find themselves able to buy, to improve their lives, to provide for others. Yet there is no doubt that often, the creation of coins has been done as some seek to exercise power over others. By making a form of currency, not only can that be used to praise your greatness – bearing your name, perhaps even your image – it means you get to set the standards. Whether it be Carthage or the kulaks, the market towns or the business families, those with the wealth and the will seek to rule others via the power of the coin. The pen is claimed mightier than the sword, although others can argue the gun beats both. Yet to these people, the coin beats them all. As currencies develop and spread, we will see who is right.

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New Japan and the Secret Divide

Last week I laid out the origins of Australasia. As always, it was a more general outline, not going into too much detail – partly for length, partly as there is plenty I wish to unfold through the course of story telling. I’m hoping these blog posts help to explain things without each story being too slowed down or cramped up with exposition, yet I still want the stories themselves to do the main telling. When I get back to putting them out there again. Sigh.

With that said, here’s another post where I explain things. Namely, having given Australasia’s overview, now I’ll get into the Japanese people, their diaspora and the colony of New Japan.

So a good place to start would be an explanation of the magical hotspots. When the Shadow World came to ours and magic became part of reality, four places were soon known as hotspots because they were seeping magic like nowhere else. The people there, the land, the weather, all were affected. Magic was and remains a lot easier in these places and it comes in much greater supply. Again, no one knows why these are this way, why these four places, why nowhere else. Some speculate that they were the cornerstones of turning the Shadow World into ours; that Dylan Winter’s act was based in these places. Again, no one knows. But the places were Japan, Great Britain, Madagascar and the Caribbean Islands. All islands, all with magical histories if you believe their folklore, and all were soon utterly transformed. Magic attracts powerful monsters, it creates humans with tremendous abilities, and that led to unthinkable warfare. With outside factors coming into play as well, these four places all became difficult regions to live in. In the present day, only Great Britain remains a hospitable place.

To focus on Japan, the thriving magic produced brilliant spellcasters and spectacular events, and in response science was given free reign. It is said that here machines were made that matched the best from anywhere else. Nothing is said of mutants, only that impressive computers and droids were crafted into being to resist the onslaught by magical monsters. It is rumoured that the doom-rollers were made in Japan. The cyber-samurai must have come from there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Whatever fight occurred in Japan centuries ago, it was too much for the people. They left. The Japanese don’t say what exactly drove them out. Maybe it was more than one thing; maybe, as some claim, they did something that caused their exile and don’t wish for it to be known. Either way, the Japanese fought hard for their home and then chose to leave.

Mostly they went to the mainland of Asia, settling in new communities as the people there were afflicted by cyborgs, super-soldiers and monsters, among other things. A large number kept on moving southward to the islands. Of them, a good number had a chance to go to Australasia. They knew of the British and American contingents that had been allowed onto this island, and while they were living in better conditions than when in Japan, the prospects of Australasia appealed. They asked to come over and join, offering trained fighters who could use both magic and science, and more resources than many could hope to expect. The Japanese may well have fled their home, yet they had done so not in panic but in resolute order, bringing with them what they would need to survive, leaving behind what was too risky for them to rely on.

So the Japanese had to earn their way onto the island. They were placed along the north coast, told that it was their duty to be the first line of defence for the rest of the population. There were military outposts already and more being built – the newly forming nation was more than aware of what threats could come that way – but once the Japanese were in place, the onus lay on them. Their magic was to be a barrier. Their technology was to be the guardian of the new homeland. They would be allowed to keep their language, their customs, to have a territory marked out and live their lives as they wished – as long as this didn’t interfere with the customs and lives of the other groups – in exchange for being part of the community, contributing, aiding and defending the whole. New Japan was formed with gratitude and purpose.

Because of how things began for the Japanese, their outlook is pretty different from the British, Australians and Americans. The other three are different nationalities, true, and aren’t without culture clashes, yet these are minor. They are far more alike than not. New Japan doesn’t share that sense of unity. They look different, speak their own language as well as fluent English, and even their settlements have differences – many features of traditional Japanese culture are evident, alongside more sleek, sophisticated buildings. Tokyo Two was entirely of their own making and it shows. That brings me to another point. Many Japanese wear traditional garb, but many also wear suits. Some could walk in the cities of the whites, others would stand out drastically.

The main difference is that the Japanese continue to teach and use magic, while also producing and developing scientific equipment. The Americans have chosen to have nothing to do with either, while the British have magical talent but try to keep quiet about it, mostly to appease their American cousins. The Australians don’t really have much magic to speak of, and while they aren’t against science, they have come to rely on what the Japanese produce. Essentially, the Japanese have made themselves far too important for the others to move against, so while prejudice, even racism, exist, there are no serious clashes between the nations. It would take the white nations uniting and throwing everything they had at New Japan in order to win.

The Japanese see themselves as part of Australasia and yet somewhat apart. They are their own people more so than the others, and are secure in their usefulness while aware of the white wariness of them. I guess a good way to describe the Japanese outlook is that they are an insular people with their eyes and ears very much open to what’s going on around them.

For this reason, they can continue on in a private war that has been going on since not long after the Japanese arrived. A secret war between those devoted to magic and those to science.

The tradition is that once a Japanese person reaches thirteen they must make a choice: magic or science. From that point on, they must wear a headband with an insignia denoting one side. This is now their cause. It doesn’t mean that all those who revere magic can use it, although it is claimed everyone has power inside them. Nor does it mean those who follow science can or will make new machines. It is more a philosophical point of view. You see one as the saviour, the other as the reason for Japan’s, and humanity’s, fall. You believe the pursuit of excelling in one will enable the human race to reclaim its world. You wish it to happen, even if you cannot help this to be.

But there are some who can. Japan, as I mentioned, has a secret war that isn’t a war. There is no conflict. Perhaps if they were still on an island populated by their own there would be. But in Australasia, a divide cannot be known. The whites would play on it. Yes, they see the headbands, the two devotions are known outside of New Japan, although it must be stressed most white people rarely encounter a Japanese person. But they are aware of nothing more and it doesn’t help to ask. It isn’t for the whites to inquire and those who wish to do business with the Japanese soon learn this.

So left alone, the Japanese have among them two groups who act on behalf of all who share their faith. The Corporate are a group of influential people who view science as the way to go and have people working for them to further that end. The Civic are the same only they push for magic. Typically, the Corporate have commandos and agents working for them, using hi-tech equipment, while the Civic rely on magic-users as well as ninjas and samurai. It is remarked that those who follow science tend to be business oriented, those who follow magic more in touch with the past.

Again, they don’t fight. Well, okay, they scuffle. Let’s put it that way. Bloodshed is avoided as much as possible. It just wouldn’t do. Neither side wants an actual war. But sometimes, as they try to gain an advantage over each other, their operatives will have to cross paths. It could be one side is in pursuit of something it wants, so the other side wants to prevent that. Theft would be preferred, or perhaps a showdown that led to one side having to back out due to being outmatched. But sometimes a clash will occur. These are kept very secret.

Most Japanese believe there will never be a winner. To them, it doesn’t matter who follows which belief, so both sides marry, interact, mingle, etc. They think there is too much in the world to overcome for New Japan to have the luxury of descending into civil war. Even many of those who act on behalf of their side see it as a game of one-up-man-ship. Oh look, we’re in the lead, ha ha!

Yet the most committed, those in the Corporate and the Civic, as well as their uppermost and most loyal followers, are seeking such an advantage that a war won’t be necessary. They want to find something, or some things, that mean the other side has to hold its hands up and say, you know what, you’re right, this is the way to go. They want to win the war so it never has to be fought. Then, united, the Japanese can push on to greater things.

They employ whites, now and then, to roam Australasia. They do their own research and development. They read texts from centuries ago and discuss new ideas. Yet so far, nothing has come close to giving either side that edge both crave. It could be that the only way for this to happen is for them to push out into the world once more. They know there are many more Japanese out there. They also know magic and science were strong in other places once and they speculate as to whether these have declined or improved since. The only way to know is to find out for themselves. This could still be some time off, it may have to be a secret act as the whites aren’t as keen on going out, yet it feels inevitable.

New Japan is the home of these Japanese. Australasia is as well. Perhaps they aren’t always fully welcome when they travel to the other three nations, but neither are they met with hostility. The Japanese are typically viewed with respect, suspicion, curiosity and politeness. They return those, especially the latter. It helps to keep the other peoples at a distance. Gain the trust of the Japanese, and another world can be opened to you. Gain their friendship and who knows what may come of it.

But whatever you do, do not pry into their personal divide. It is their faith and not to be trifled with, and some take it very seriously indeed.

Australasia: Origin to Present

So when the world you know is going mad and monsters have become real, and worse still, the things your science have created are no longer your protectors but your hated enemies, where do you run to? Where is there to hide? Where lies safety?

To most people in the developed nations around the world, there were no easy answers. People who were part of establishments or elite ranks had secret bunkers they could hide in. Others who had the means could flee. Some could stand strong, use strength of arms or technology, or something else, to fend off the threats. For many, however, it was a case of get by. Try and survive. Adapt if you can. Suffer, if you can’t.

For those who could escape, it then became a case of where to go. Fleeing a short distance could be the only option, but if you really wanted to be safe, you wanted to get as far away as you could. The other side of the world would be a good bet. True, nowhere was safe, but of course, when you’re just normal people in your own little corner of the planet, you hope beyond hope that there will be safety somewhere. You want to go as far as you can because you tell yourself this will work.

So for those in Great Britain, a place where magic became readily available and in strong quantities, which then drew monsters to it, there were a few options. Some could just flee to Europe and see how that went. Others would use the magic power they now had to defend their home. Others fled. To some that meant places like Europe, Africa, even the United States, while people from there were fleeing in the other direction. Like I said, for many it was about getting away rather than worrying about where you ended up.

Some had time and resources to think and plan. Britain had strong links with Australia and this large island with a low population had plenty of potential as a refuge. Monsters were there, yes, but no machines or mutants. People who wanted to leave the magical island saw this far off destination as the perfect retreat. It did mean organising for a long trip, but it was considered worth the wait. It should also be noted that the vast majority of these people who gathered and prepared were white. Other ethnic groups had other targets, usually closer ones.

A significant number of people left Great Britain, travelled across the sea and arrived at Australia’s shores. The details of this journey aren’t well known, mostly recanted by the descendants in glorified, simple tales, as often becomes the way. None of that matters here. What concerns us is that British people arrived and the Australian government took them in. It was seen as a humanitarian act, yet it was a practical response as well. Australia needed numbers to defend itself. While they weren’t suffering as badly as most places in the world, they had endured losses. Fortunately for them, more people were soon to arrive.

Once the British had settled in, Americans showed up. They had seen this trip. A number of British ships had stopped at ports of the United States coastlines, so word had gotten out. White people heading for a land where they could be safe and secure. It appealed to many. Hell, even some non-white people wanted to go. The Americans were more organised. Military personnel were involved. Perhaps this was so as to make sure no wasn’t the answer given when they arrived. Perhaps not. Either way, when the Americans came to Australia, they had more weapons, more resources, and they could even offer to mine the sea so as to close the place off.

Before that could be achieved, the Japanese appeared. Now in their case, they were fleeing both magic and science, and had been pushing southward through Asia for some time. It isn’t entirely clear whether they knew about the British journey or not, but it is very likely some form of communication occurred. The Japanese had been driven from their home, they went to various places to make new ones, and a lot of them came to Australia to ask to join this new forming nation. There was some hesitation this time, and let’s not pretend race didn’t play a part, but there was also a fear of the magic and science the Japanese still wielded. This was especially troubling to the previous immigrants. The British had fled magic and many were fearful of it, although some were magic-users and it had defended them on the way here. The Americans were fearful of science for the same reasons and many had travelled here looking to find a new life without it, and the reports of magic devastating the world had put them against that as well. Let’s be honest, there was definitely a vibe of this mass migration that was reminiscent of the Puritan movement centuries before. People had left a home they were persecuted in to find a new land they could not only call home, but make it a home of their liking. Science and magic were best left outside of Australia, according to many voices.

Yet for all that, there was still the practical reasoning of survival, and this was still Australia back then. The government had the only say and they chose to let the Japanese in, as long as their magic and technology were put to the benefit of all. They had come to the northern shores so that was they would be stay, becoming a line of defence, should it be needed. As this was taking place, the British and Americans pushed for their own regions. Many of their people just took Australian citizenship and settled in, but most wanted to remain who they were, and to have a say in the future running of this transformed island.

The new nation was called Australasia, as in the name for the continent that has been used in the past. This was a compromise so that the natives felt it was pretty much their land, yet acknowledged things were different now. The British were given the west coast, the Americans the southern, with the city of Perth now a shared capital for them both. Australia kept the most important parts, remaining in most of the cities, and so while there was a good amount of shuffling around, it wasn’t too much. Considering how far most of this new population had travelled to be here, it was an easy task. During that time, they were able to set up defences – mining the sea, placing land-to-air weaponry, and culling the monster population so no threats remained to the cities. The inner region became the wild lands of Australasia, where people went to get away from authority, society, religion, etc. Monsters lurked out here, but they were badly outnumbered.

While the Japanese were allowed to continue their magic and science, it was strictly under the conditions of this happening in New Japan, and only there. As time went on, the other groups became more and more intolerant of those forces that had brought down civilisation. The British continued to practice magic; in a way they had little choice as the power lingered in their bloodlines so strongly, as with the Japanese. Yet it was best to keep it out of sight as much as possible. Rules varied from town to town. In some, magic was a sin and pretty much a crime. In others, it had a use if used only when needed. Americans rarely tolerated it. Australians were more open, but needed to keep a united front for political reasons, so magic was not exactly wrong, but nor was it right, across the land. This hypocrisy extended to science. Most new settlements became low tech within the following century, and yet power plants were built by the Japanese for certain cities, as part of their commitment to the island. Science was frowned upon in most of Australasia, and yet all major cities used electricity, and the Japanese continued to develop things that the other nations showed interest in. Condemn science and magic openly, make use of them quietly; this was the new way.

With the creation of each nation, a new government was formed and the British, the Japanese and the Americans were able to govern themselves, at least to a degree. Even now, it is understood that the Australians call the shots in the end. Their population remains the largest, they run the most cities, and, basically, they were there first. Each nation can have some laws for themselves and of course keep their culture, for the most part, yet there remains a need for unity. It is about keeping a balance. Each group wants a semblance of independence while knowing that if any force came to their island, they would all need the others to defend it. It works well for politicians and agitators to claim they will ensure the voices of their people will be heard, but compromise and understanding are how things get done.

A useful way to get an insight into the relationships between the groups is to look at their intelligence agencies. Each people have their own spies and counter spying networks. There isn’t a great spy war going on, far from it, but each group wants to keep an eye on their neighbours while not giving too much away. In fact, the spying has reached an almost communal level. Basically, if no one knows anything about you, you must be up to no good, so each nation is aware of the others spying on it, and lets it happen. In return, the others do the same. Spies may even meet, have a chat, exchange information. This isn’t an open conflict where agents shoot it out in the streets. This is quiet, careful, and mostly open. Mostly. Everyone wants that one up. Each group has its own ways. For instance, the British tend to be about information gathering and then using this to barter with or blackmail. They lean toward not causing trouble, not making any ripples, just deftly listening in and then calmly using it. Smile, nod, be polite, and get what you want, is their way.

Religion remains important and is mostly the Christian church, as would be expected. For the most part they work a fine line of condemnation of magic and its use, and some even participate in persecuting the users. Obviously this doesn’t reach into New Japan. When it comes to policing, each nation have their own police, but there are Rangers who roam, especially into the less settled central region of the island. A Ranger could be from any group, but because of the nature of the quartet’s relationship, rarely will one be Japanese. The white races intermingle a lot more, sharing culture and history, as well as language, while the Japanese focus on themselves, refining their magic and science, and dealing with their own problems. More on that in another post.

For the most part, Australasia is a pretty good place to be. For a human. They have been cut off from the world and its problems for a long time, the monsters there are a threat but only if you go wandering into the central wilderness. There are bandits out there too, and criminals of other types around the cities, towns and villages. But crime isn’t a huge concern, nor is there any potential for war. Soldiers reside in outposts along the coast, with a headquarters in Tasmania, and the military is for Australasia, not each nation. Even though those soldiers could well side with their own people if conflict occurred, they pledge their loyalty to the island as a whole.

The people who live here may have left the incredible threats that once drove them from their homes far behind, but they haven’t forgotten them. There are difficulties in being four nationalities living together, of course, yet nothing approaching a desire to break this settled unity up. Their ancestors went through a lot so that the people living now can have a safe haven to reside in. Even if this isn’t said openly, that past migration still has an affect on the mindset of the Australasian people to this day. Their view of the world is fundamentally different from anyone else’s. Their home may not be perfect, but it is a good place, unlike those they fled from, and they wish to keep it that way. All of them. Any nationalism, racism and other divisive issues take second place to this.

Oh, a few minor details to add before I finish. Australasia has a lot of railways running to help connect the growing settlements, and this is an acceptable level of technology even for the religious zealots. Also, there is only one portal in the entire country, deep into the centre of its territory. Currently it is guarded by creatures that don’t want anyone new coming through, but the humans have long ago lost awareness of it. They consider themselves sealed off. Another point is that, as previously mentioned, the three white races speak English, while the Japanese speak English fluently as well as their own language. Gives them an advantage. A final note is to say that while New Japan has the city of Tokyo Two – made by the Japanese from scratch – as their capital, and Britannia and America shares Perth as their joint capital, the Australian, and so Australasian capital, remains Canberra.

Partnerships

My last post dealt with rivalries. As mentioned, these are pretty easy to come by. The way the world works now means most people – humans, monsters, mutants, machines – are trying to kill each other. You usually need a reason not to attack first. However, there are some partnerships. As strange as it may seem, certain groups have learned that they are better off helping each other out. In certain cases, they have come to depend on one another. Clearly, these cases are rare, but here are some of the main ones:

A major partnership is that of super-soldiers with other mutants, especially the lesser mutants derisively referred to as mutts. This combination has become so well known many won’t question it, they are all mutants anyway, and yet it is a partnership of necessity as much as anything else. Super-soldiers are powerfully built individuals and most would think they don’t need others on their side. In fact, most super-soldiers would boast that they never have and never will need help, that they of all types are the strongest and most capable of conquering all. They will even declare that they, and they alone, are carrying the mutant side of the war against humanity. But they need the other mutants. While super-soldiers aren’t few in number, they are vastly outnumbered by humans, and the lesser mutants are not only much more, but they aren’t restricted by reproduction limitations. Many mutts have survived by breeding a lot and toughing things out. Of course, the super-soldiers stay in charge and often use their inferior comrades as cannon fodder.

I have to stress, this happens mainly in the more militarised groupings, such as the mutant army based in Constantinople and laying siege to Eden, and the mutant nation around Trade Island, where the military is the real power. Mutts endure the rule of their superiors because they grant them protection. It isn’t a pretty partnership, yet it is one, all the same. However in other places the relationship is more pleasant, where mutual support is the aim. Such a place is Normandy, where many mutants have gathered to make and develop their home, and where there isn’t any segregation between the types of mutants. While in other places, super-soldiers breeding with inferiors is disdained, here interbreeding is the norm. For this reason, there are much fewer weaker and badly disfigured people, and a hell of a lot less resentment.

It makes sense for mutants to work together, and humans do too, but not always. Many pockets of humanity will fight as savagely as necessary for resources, even against each other. Yet they have other allies as well. Ones that have been on their side since the beginning. Funnily enough, humans who encounter them are more likely to trust them and offer or accept help than their own kind. Aegis, totems and denizens are three types of monsters who have chosen to aid humanity rather than assault it, as most of their brethren did. Aegis became their guardians. Denizens are their allies. Totems are as well, healers and helpers, pacifists for all their physical strength. It has to be said, though, that when aegis are involved, it tends to be a very one sided partnership. While they defend humans, they are not their equals. They tend to be strong minded, often overbearing, so humans spend most of their time listening and nodding. Much preferred to being stomped on by devil-beasts, however.

A special mention has to go to sphinx here. While it is stretching it to refer to this as a partnership, sphinx have forged a strong reputation for being powerful individuals who can be worked with. True, they have been known to manipulate and betray, but all the best players of the world game do that. There is something to be respected there. But sphinx can be relied on, they would rather co-operate than create trouble. They rely on their wisdom and cunning, first and foremost. Physical and magical strength comes in when needed.

A number of monsters are considered more neutral than most, so have been known to work with others more often. Again, this isn’t really a partnership, but creatures such as sphinx, and also wraiths and magi, ally themselves more readily with those equally dependable. In this regard, magi are known for a partnership with pixies. Both sets of beings depend on secrecy, deception and skill to keep themselves from harm. Both races have been hunted, oppressed and mistreated. Both magi and pixies understand magic well, despite the former being unable to use it. Together, they often help each other, sharing the risks to lessen the overall threat. Also, pixies are excellent spies and messengers, and espionage and information gathering are specialities of magi. They are a natural partnership, but also one needed in this brutal world.

There is another type of partnership among monsters, but this is more variable. It tends to feature the scavenger types – vermin, hobgoblins and ghouls. They can team up with another race and follow it along, picking up whatever pieces they like. Usually this goes with a stronger group, such as brutes, vandals, etc. Not always is this a mutual act either. Many monsters won’t want these creatures near them. They can have their benefits though. Vermin are inventors, if crude. Hobgoblins are among the best thieves around. Ghouls tidy up bloody messes. Every ecosystem needs its bottom feeders.

Returning to the human race, we can talk of some specific partnerships. In the last post, talking about rivalries, I said that in Australasia we have the four groups of Britannia, New Japan, America and Australia, and there is a level of competition going on, especially among the Japanese themselves. At the same time, there is a partnership going on, one that has enabled them all to benefit and flourish. The four nationalities work together, with difficulties, and there has never been a major conflict between any of them. Australians remain in charge of their home and the ‘guests’ understand that, while living in their own ways. Another human partnership to be mentioned is that of the Octagon State. Eight bases in the Texas region have managed to gain enough control of their territory to join forces, helped by the fact their culture and rules are all pretty similar. They live by the Bible, look to the glory of Ancient Rome for inspiration, and hate mutants, who they have warred with for generations. Only together will they prevail.

When it comes to partnerships, essentially all you need is an understanding which works because it benefits everyone involved. Because of this, I can talk about pirates, mercenaries and criminals. Basically, they have their own rules and ways to make sure they aren’t killing each other off. In Trade Island, mercenaries take work and kill whoever they are told to, but otherwise don’t hinder each other. In fact, many of them loiter in the Rough House, where they can talk about work with one another. This isn’t too different from how mercenaries around the world behave. In Europe, groups of them will be hired by market towns one day to fight each other one day, then unite to force more pay from their employers the next. As for pirates, across the Mediterranean there are several small islands which are considered pirate havens. Here, ships will dock and crews will enjoy themselves by whatever means are available, and no robbing or killing is to be done. Well, that’s not strictly true, it will happen, they are pirates after all. But by and large, no one is meant to. Pirate havens cannot operate unless the frequent guests behave themselves. Merchants and innkeepers will only reside there if they can make money. In truth, there is less chance of being accosted in the dark while on a pirate haven than in most of the market towns or numerous villages along the Mediterranean coast. Criminals reside on the outskirts of society. In order to survive, they have to co-operate and sometimes even aid each other. No one else will.

As much as the world has created an environment that makes rivalry as commonplace as breathing, this has meant that partnerships are vitally important. The problem comes in that most people can’t trust another group for long, wondering what will break the trust, who will act first, who will get to act last. Partnerships will come and go, they always have done, but these ones have lingered the most or stand strongest at the current time. They are rare gems. Still, they are also very dangerous in the wrong hands.