Seriously, How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

Part Two

(continued from previous post)

Many cyborgs and mutants also came from the east. For some time there was a United Nations for Asia, with many countries having felt the original UN was too western-centric. Things went well and trade flourished. China and India especially benefited, becoming the top powers of the world, spreading their business and influence far. This led to Russia denouncing both, fearing invasion and building bases. The USA disliked this rise to power, yet needed the trade.

However war might well have been inevitable. China and India had minor clashes, then a full blown war. It went on for some time, and much of Asia became involved to some degree. It was heavily suspected that Japan was a secret ally of India, while claiming neutrality. Pakistan went from neutral, if gloating at India’s suffering, to becoming a full ally of India. This was due to several events, not least Chinese soldiers attacking Pakistani people by accident. Or so it was claimed. Also, spies told that China had ideas on the entire region and its leaders were highly anti-Islamic.

Both China and India had strong levels of technology, much of which was geared towards destruction for some time. Neither looked to nuclear weapons or anything like that, though. Both knew such an act would bring in other nations, and could harm their own soldiers if things went wrong. The war was brutal, yet controlled for the most part, and both governments wanted it that way. It enabled a lot of control over their people, for one thing.

When the Shadow World merged with ours, both sides saw new threats, and while peace was never actually declared, the fighting pretty much ended. Monsters had to be fought. Mutants and machines were quickly designed. Yes, they were made with an idea of being used to finish this war, but only once the new bizarre invasion was dealt with. That never happened, of course. Also, that control both governments enjoyed was soon crumbling, with more and more clamouring for peace, among other issues they had with the authorities. In response, the Terracotta Army had become a real power in China, a movement among the people who stood ready to defend their leaders. Many of these loyal and militant citizens volunteered for programmes that enabled new creations to be born. Willing subjects make progress so much easier.

Two other countries that had benefited from trade, especially with China and India, were Brazil and South Africa. Brazil was blooming as an economic power anyway, but once it and the other two sought to trade, South Africa became the middle man, taking in goods and selling on. It received an influx of investment and immigration. Once the war between China and India began, the trade lessened, yet it never ended, and South Africa continued to build on its position as a trading nation. It was one of the few places in the world where factions weren’t prying society apart, although many would claim greed and superficial living had replaced passion and personality.

Further north, Christianity and Islam were at war, although there were geographical and cultural reasons for violence as well. Yet, when South Africa’s wealth began to spread, as did its influence, this provoked socialist spirits. In many nations where riches and power still stood strong, poverty and oppression were equally pervasive. This led to various movements across Africa, Europe and Asia, most of which united to form three major organisations – the Peasants’ Revolt, the People’s Rebellion, the Socialist Renaissance. All three of these were present in Africa, seeking to hang the rich and ready to gun down those who defended them, just as in the other parts of the world. South Africa kept these enemies out, but they were very aware of the threat.

It has been suggested, but none will ever know, that wealthy governments managed to infiltrate and manipulate the three organisations, which is why they went to war with each other. Either way, what was sporadic violence became full on chaos once magic became real and monsters terrorised both rich and poor alike. Yes, humans united to fight the supernatural foes, and yet so many saw this as a chance to strike at those they had hated for so long.

As for Brazil, it was wealthy at the top, poor at the bottom, just more so. With global order breaking down, the UN ending and world power shifting, Brazil sought to become the dominant force in South America. Obviously, this was not welcomed by the other countries, and yet nothing really went wrong until one president came to power by siding with a renewal cult. These movements were fanatical about change happening, they believed the world was heading for a cataclysmic event, and that life would be better for it. This president made the mistake of utilising this fervour, believing that since no event would happen, where was the harm?

Once in power, the fanatics saw it as their time to make change happen. Acts of terrorism and sabotage were soon everywhere. It spread to Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and beyond. This sort of thing was occurring in other parts of the world, true, but not with equal enthusiasm. Elsewhere, these cults were persecuted heavily, but in Brazil they had been endorsed, then supported. Politicians allowed them to act long after they should have stopped them, seeking power first, deeply regretting it later. By then, militarised police forces were out in the streets, using the now infamous Fascista carbine. It wasn’t enough. It was also too late. Cultists who could do magic not only tipped the scales, they went beyond it, not realising their new power; many dying, if willingly, as they embraced this changed world, or even sought to force it further.

Finally, in the Middle East, it could be said that the centuries of its history continued to influence its present. Even as the USA weakened, it remained a staunch ally of Israel, as did other nations. Various political alliances were made, then altered, such as Russia and Turkey’s pact, and also the US of E’s deal with Iran, then later Iran’s trade deal with Egypt and South Africa. Alternative energy sources were growing so dependency on oil was weakening, if not ended, therefore other places meddled less. Europe, for instance, wanted a more stable Middle East to ease immigration concerns, while others sought opportunities to invest. But trouble remained. Some regimes were vulnerable now that world power had altered. There were outbreaks of rebellion against the rich, the previously mentioned organisations growing stronger here by the year, and a number of wealthy families left the region (Jamshid ended up making his life and name in the USA because of this).

Over time, renewal cults, also doomsday cults, grew, as they did in many parts of the world, although often with a more religious aspect to them. There came to be a renewed interest in lost arts and old thinking, in mysticism and faith, and yet also many were looking to the future. Russia and Turkey’s alliance broke and they nearly went to war, yet besides that most nations in the region saw a chance to progress. Weapons sold to the east, other resources to the west and south. Who knows what might have been? Yet once Dylan Winter acted and monsters invaded, the region became a warzone. The holy lands of so many were under attack, and at least it can be said it brought them together amidst the chaos and terror.

As I said in the month old post with the almost same title, the world was fracturing before it was ripped asunder by the Shadow World (not sure I’ve said that enough in this post!). People were agitated, scared, thinking ahead but often regressing too. This can be said of many times in the world’s history; it is usually a place of war, intrigue and suspicion. But this time none of that could be resolved. Where nations competed, where people were divided, where governments were losing control or trying too hard to keep it – all of this was made far worse once, well, you know what occurred. Power to the people was no longer a cry but a reality. Change was no longer sought but here, in brutal truth, as super-soldiers and super-computers served the humans, temporarily. These are just some of the instances and events going on before everything went mad. It was this backdrop that made the Raging possible, and then how the world got to be the way it is now.

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Seriously, How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

Part One

(due to the length of this post, I’ve broken it into two and will put the other half up next week)

About a month ago, I posted about the way the world was pre-the Shadow World, in generalised terms. I wrote about the vying forces that stood for control and freedom, for elitism versus populism. All of this affected the people and world as the Shadow World merged with it and nature itself changed, so that groups and ideas lived on in new forms. Cyborg sects and the aquatics, to name but two, have identities forged from people and events that occurred before their current existence was made possible.

So much later than planned, I can now go into some specifics. Yes, there were struggling factions and opposing ideologies conflicting across the world, but now I’ll mention some of who or what those were. Later on, I’ll talk about the Raging, the era that came soon after, where so much mayhem and destruction occurred, that truly separated what was left of our world from what it now is in the present day of Sojourners in Shadow.

Seeing as I mentioned the Oligarchs in the aforementioned post, I’ll start with them. By their time, the United States of Europe had been in existence for a while. However, Great Britain had broken off and then, within Europe itself, various leaders rose to power. Some led small central nations, others rose to prominence in regions within larger countries. These then joined forces to preserve their power and the cause for which so many followed them. The US of E now had a hole in its centre, and this was not appreciated. The Oligarchs faced opposition all around them, and also within their own territories, which is why they became stricter on control and created the Gendarmes.

As for Great Britain, it broke away, yet that did not go so well (I came up with all this a few years back, so Brexit had nothing to do with this). By this time it was an elected monarchy that ruled, yet political and social friction led to various parts of the kingdom separating. Eventually, only England and Northern Ireland was left, and yet they refused to give up the name. Scotland, Eire, Wales and Cornwall (also separate) formed the Gaelic Union. These two sides competed economically and politically, yet never with genuine action. At least, that was until the Shadow World came and the islands were flooded with magic. The people found they could act on their own, and so they did. Governments could only watch as the enmity they had fostered and exploited tore their civilisations apart.

Great Britain, the lesser version, had entered into an alliance with Russia, to compete with the United States of Europe. Russia faced threats from all around. Nations were becoming more aggressive, more extremist, more intolerant. Bases were constructed across Russia, to ward off invasion from China, from Europe, and even from the USA. However, it was Russia who then took the offensive, claiming Alaska was theirs. The resources there were needed more than ever before. So Russian forces massed in the east, then invaded.

Alaska became a warzone, with three sides fighting. On the one hand there were Russian soldiers, and then there were American soldiers trying to expel them. Yet there were also the Alaskan people, who wanted both sides gone. The American government wanted the resources there as much as the Russian one did, and was equally ruthless about it. As both sides fought and mined and took without concern, the natives chose to fight back. They were all still fighting when the Shadow World hit.

But Russia suffered further change. With the government based in the west and enforcing its will more and more, and then with the east militarised, there was a pull of will, with leaders in the east able to argue against those in the west. This led to the Siberian Secession. Russia, much like its ally Great Britain, was now a lesser version of itself as Siberia stood alone. This led to instant conflict. The Russians built an immense stronghold in the Ural Mountains to prevent attack, and to base an invasion from. Some even claim they were designing, possibly creating, super-soldiers before the Shadow World forced the hand of humanity.

As for the soldiers in Alaska, they found themselves deserted. Siberia was more intent on facing down Russia. With the invasion of Alaska not going nearly as well as needed, those sent out were cut out, left to make their own way home or die trying. Instead, they remained. The descendants of the three competing sides reside in Alaska now, all considered native at this point, and resisting cyborgs and mutants, who desire the resources still there.

I mentioned the government of the USA just now, but that isn’t what you typically think of either. The USA had a Second Civil War. Also known as the Bloodless Revolution. Due to inept governance, states chose to secede, while many people were protesting and resisting rule already. The Saints of Bushido were a growing movement. So the president called out the army. Soldiers refused to shoot their own people, or each other as the divisions grew. Soon the entire military was firm in its neutral stance. This held the nation together. Leaders met, resolutions were found. The USA remained, however its was from then on much less centralised. States became much more powerful, even having their own military forces, and people soon identified themselves by state first, country second.

The Alaskan pillaging was ordered by the government, with the support of the other states which needed the resources, and yet it led to more distrust of central authority. Who might be next?

The division grew and grew. By the time the Shadow World was summoned by Dylan Winter, there were the Atlantic States and the Pacific States. They were all still part of the USA, yet now stood as groups, stronger together, and each side looked in a different direction for gains and threats. By this time, it was the Pacific States who were invested in Alaska, while the Atlantic States were doing deals with the US of E and Northern African countries.

I could tell more of the USA, yet I’ll end there. But this growing division is why things went so wrong, so quickly, once monsters and magic appeared. California and Texas were quick to become independent. Various leaders stood up and took charge. Science was let loose to fight back. Many cyborgs and mutants have their origins here.

Why so Friendly?

Returning, as I’ve been meaning to do, to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and not feeling so well, I felt like a brief mention could be made of the nice guys. At least, those from a certain point of view. I have a number of more complicated and in-depth posts to make, but right now I don’t think I could manage one. This will do.

But this isn’t a meaningless post. In a world so brutal, so divided, it remains not just a scarce occurrence to find someone who can be on your side, but also a very perplexing moment. Why are you on my side? Why would you want to help me? What do you want in return? These aren’t just common questions, these are good survival instincts kicking in. After all, many stragglers have been invited in by a friendly community, only to find they are deemi in disguise or a cyborg sect, eager to convert them.

I have discussed before about alliances and races who work closely together, or just feel a strong bond. This isn’t the same thing. I’m talking here about those who are nice to others. No gain sought. No reward wanted. Just those who are there to be helpful.

As you can imagine, it’s a short list.

Basically, it’s totems. That’s it. As far as races go, they are the only ones who naturally seem drawn to being helpful. Yes, they are well known for being allies to humanity, just like aegis and denizens are. But those two are also known for being ruthless with their enemies. With totems, they prefer to avoid conflict. They can fight. Some do. It is rare but these gigantic, powerful creatures can hit harder than most things. But they are a benign, mute race of healers and helpers. Often they are found in the ranks of an army as a medical unit, forced to march for their captors and aid fallen warriors. Other times they join a war willingly, ready to help those who they feel need it. Humans, mostly, often on the verge of annihilation. But other instances have been known. They prefer peace, they want to help. Monsters they are, true, yet whatever dream they have come from, it is a pleasant one. Aegis are like guardians to humans, denizens like comrades, but totems are friends. To more than humans, if others seek it.

Why they are this way is unknown. Totems are typically about eight foot tall and covered by an obsidian-like skin that is impervious to most attacks. That is, apart from their front. Here, they are soft, and if another being is held here, then the totems’ natural healing ability will work its wonders. They can even fold up about someone, enclosing them in warmth and comfort, and this act can heal almost any injury. It has even been known to cure diseases and re-energise people. Of course, totems can also roll up and become invulnerable. So, for all these physical attributes, totems appear naturally crafted to be pacifists. They are very tough to kill, able to heal and cure others, and strong enough to survive many environments. Oh, they also float. It’s weird but they can.

Totems are the world’s best at enduring and aiding, so being friendly to all seems like a natural step. It should be noted, however, that they are often called pacifists, yet they aren’t truly. Yes, they seek to avoid a fight, but they will resist anyone who tries to hurt them, their people or make any of them do something they don’t want to. When others seek to enslave them, the best trick is to capture their young and hold them while the adults go out with your army and heal the fighters. Totems are more amiable, more quick to concede, that is well known. They would rather submit than stand proudly in defiance. But those that know their kind are quite clear that they aren’t weak. The more you demand of them, the more you will have to push, and even they have their limits. Totems are pretty much unique in that you could call them good natured, but those who think them spineless or saints have often paid for such assumptions.

Having talked totems, I should make mention of a few other friendly groups. In their cases, they are more going against their nature or the ways of their group than with. For this reason, many won’t trust them, despite their history.

A few groups are cyborg sects. One is the Order of Organic Triumph. This sect believes in individuality and also of placing the human over the machine. For this reason, they are more flesh and blood than mechanical, which leaves them weaker in combat. They are also much less regimented. Because of these facts, this sect has suffered from attacks by more militant forces, so most of their number are hiding among other races. Usually humans. Now they tend to be a very open-minded and tolerant people, partly due to their philosophy, perhaps mostly due to their need to survive among other groups. They will seek to persuade humans to join, not ‘recruit’ them. As a non-militant force who have often been refugees, the Order of Organic Triumph have more often helped than hindered people.

Another group also has a refugee past. The Order of the Mothers Mechanical began when a few collections of survivors from defeated sects met up. They were mostly young with women – their teachers and carers – in command. They united and pressed on, away from the conflicts that were more common back then. They found others like them, then settled at a defensible site and made it their home. They remain there, strong enough to feel safe, a new sect, and they are also known for being open to refugees. They remember their past well. Many cyborg sects have been smashed over the centuries and small groups or even lone individuals roaming the world aren’t that uncommon. A place like this is a needed sanctuary. Yet it should be made clear, they are mostly keen in welcoming cyborgs, if they will tolerate other kinds too, and they let most stay a time and then move them on. They consider themselves a temporary refuge, unless someone meets their standards.

Another sect is the Order of Jubilant Transformation. As the name suggests, these cyborgs are all about celebrating the new and better form of existence they inhabit. This makes them very friendly and open, and they love to tell non-cyborgs how much better things are for them now. They are so tolerant, in fact, they have no qualms if anyone wishes to leave their sect. The sad truth is many have done so over time. Their way feels good, especially to the newly converted, but they have little power and so are one strong attack away from extinction. Also, some just can’t stomach how jubilant they are all the time.

It should be made clear here that, while these sects are seen in a much better light than most, they are still suspicious to some. There are claims that the Order of Organic Triumph convert in secret and infiltrate human, mutant and cyborg groups. There are rumours that the Mothers Mechanical have their own agenda. There are strong remarks that the Order of Jubilant Transformation are just a bunch of nutters.

Only the totems stand beyond reproach. Monsters who hate them, deem them traitors and human-helpers, see them as genuine in their tolerant and caring nature. Their size can be intimidating, they stand higher than devil-beasts and aegis, but their benevolent character soon overcomes any such fear. Aegis are powerful in aspect and scare those they help. Totems are strong but caring, helpful and loyal. Many will claim that if they weren’t so useful to have around, they would have been wiped out by now. Maybe so, and maybe the same could be said about how non-threatening they are. No one fears totems. But somehow, they never seem to fear anyone either. If more races were like them, there’d be a lot less to fear for all concerned.

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.

Fighting Pits

Many things exist or happen in the world which are far more real to some than others, but the fame – or infamy – is well known. In certain places, people live in fear of being raided by enemies, of being captured and enslaved. In some places, wars rage, and violence has become so normal that it can be entertaining. It will often be the case that what is normal for one group of people is a bizarre happening to another, and what is the obvious thing to do is unthinkable depending on who you are and where you live. In amongst all these things are fighting pits. To some, these are very real. But elsewhere, they have heard tales of them, either from the past or the present day, and usually stories of them are passed around to scare or warn. Sometimes, though, to entice.

Fighting pits are pretty much as described. Basically, people are made to fight – sometimes they chose to but rarely – and they do so before others, so they fight below the audience. It is such a basic, common-sense feature that is always happens. You could go to a small dip in the land where two desperate communities watch their selected fighters compete to see who wins this annual contest, or a much more luxurious stand where captured combatants bleed out in full view. The fighting happens in pits of all kinds. But the term also comes from the fact that many places are underground hideouts with cells reaching down into the depths of the land. People can see out lives of darkness and violence, kept against their will, brought up to fight for entertainment, then returned to their cells. Or worse. But whatever the setup, many fighting pits are prisons as much as anything, and being dragged into one is a sheer dread for millions of beings.

Fighting pits are known around the world by many, maybe even most people, but they are not everywhere. For one, they have a tendency to occur where warfare and violence is so prevalent it can be turned into entertainment. In most instances, fighting pits are there to thrill and amuse. However there are a few other purposes too. Sometimes they are used to hone the skills of beings and to weed out the weakest warriors. These will often be found in areas of constant battle. Another use is to eradicate your enemies. Yes, you could just wipe out an enemy force, but sometimes you want to do it in a more prolonged, humiliating way, or perhaps you want to do it in secret. Again, in an area of long term war, a pit might exist where the influx of prisoners go, and never make it out of. Sometimes they will be used to scare people into submission as much as entertain the audience. In the history of this world, many of the more famous pits existed at the behest of a powerful ruler, who would sit and watch the show with underlings and soldiers, keeping them delighted but also putting the fear of ending up in there into their heads. It might even have produced tougher, more ferocious fighters from the prisoners, if they could be made to obey.

The other place pits can be found are remote locations, in order to not be found. These ones tend to be the more select pits, run by powerful and knowledgable people, often assisted by someone with strong influence who has a use for the pit. Most pits are average to less in condition, coming into being by necessity or opportunity, yet some are well kept, strictly managed, with an established hierarchy. Often, they have been there for decades, even a century or two. If you end up in one of these, escape is near impossible, and yet there will be more chance of fighting your way to glory.

I think the best way to fully explain these places is to give a variety of examples. For instance, the mutant army that dominates from Eastern Europe to the human sanctuary of Eden are, unsurprisingly, intensely anti-human. So while they maintain the act of being a militarised force with rules and regulations, there do exist a few pits they throw human prisoners into. The mutant army has no real use for human captives. If they were able to get their hands on an inhabitant of Eden, then the knowledge that person has would be vital. But other humans in the area are weaker in tech and certainly in organisation than the mutants, so they are essentially pests to be got rid of. They might cast a monster or someone in there, but mostly to watch them tear into the humans. These pits are typically crude structures dug into the harsh land, with no individual cells, just a bottom where all end up. Food is thrown in to be fought over. The aim is for all within to end up dead one way or the other. Humans will be brought up, often in batches, and have damaged weapons thrown at them. Sometimes they won’t fight, so the mutants know to use rewards or threats to get a reaction, and if not, everyone gets gunned down by the guards. They never offer escape. No one leaves. The mutants watch to be entertained, yet also to feed their hatred and that of any others who may be doubting. Humans are shown to be the weaker, vicious creatures they truly are.

These places might be called death pits rather than fighting pits, but even hateful mutants don’t want it to seem that obvious. A fighting pit offers a fighting chance and that often makes the inevitable destruction of the prisoners all the more satisfying. This is true of all the places and all those who run them, of course. Humans who hate mutants equally have similar pits, although they have to be more careful when keeping super-soldiers under guard, but these also provide much more entertainment. In fact, the stories of the end of civilisation – in the aftermath of the Shadow World’s arrival here – feature many super-soldier filled pits, created by those who made the mutants. When mutants were rebelling or deemed a threat, many rulers and ruling factions decided to kill off their creations the more entertaining way. Sometimes, this was a big mistake.

Across the southern coastal areas of Europe, a number of market towns have become established and trade among them and the many smaller settlements is now flourishing. When competition spills over into conflict, usually mercenaries are hired, yet specialised fights have also been known to be arranged. They cost less in terms of time, blood and money. But there are a few fighting pits along the coast as well, often containing captured pirates, criminals, mercenaries or people who can’t pay their debts. While life in these is harsh, it isn’t nearly as dreadful as those previously mentioned. Freedom can be earned. Those who win often can become celebrities of a kind. They are a source of business and income as well as entertainment and punishment.

However, nearby in Spain, there are several pits close together, run by a sphinx and his three wives. This individual has contacts around the Mediterranean and can bring in better fighters as the need calls, but he also has friends and followers in other places. The more richer merchants and town elites will travel there to watch the superior fights, and to meet the more important guests from abroad. These pits are run as fighting pits first and foremost. Anyone new gets a cell down the bottom but the more you win, the higher you rise, and the living conditions become better at each level. The level of fighting is much higher and competing here is more likely to get you noticed. For this reason, individuals voluntary join. They have to be treated like the rest, this is part of the deal going in, but if they truly believe in their skills, they know they can leave here with high paying work on offer. Sometimes, people are sent here to become better fighters. It is even suspected that a couple of the pits are nothing more than training arenas to create soldiers for paying customers. It would explain a lot.

A fighting pit that surprises many is one found on a small island near Madagascar. As stated in a recent post, the gleaners are all over Madagascar, but this is also a place of powerful magic. So this pit is one for magic-users, because even weak ones can summon serious power to wield, making for a much better show. As expected, magic is used to keep the prisoners there and to keep gleaners and other intruders out, yet some kind of arrangement has to be going on. Who has made it with the gleaners of Madagascar is unknown at the moment. But those who end up there are chosen with care and the combat is broadcast to select individuals using the abundant magic present, so there are some strong gains to be had, despite the risks.

At this point I should talk about the two most notorious fighting pits from history. The first was called Hell. An obvious but apt name. It was owned by a devil-beast who was a powerful and tyrannical ruler in Great Britain long ago, best known – by those who remember such things – for being involved in a three-way war. He was opposed by two sides: one a family of devil-beasts, another a faction of aegis. He ruled over much of the land and commanded thousands of warriors; he was also a cruel being with no use for prisoners and a love of displaying his power. For this reason, a deep and harsh pit was made and many ended up there – mostly prisoners, yet a good number of his own followers too. Due to the nature of the war and his own power, all kinds of beings lived, fought and died there. At one point, he had an aegis from one side and a devil-beast of the other fight on the basis that the winner would leave. According to the legend, he kept his word. When his end came, so too did Hell. Supposedly, it collapsed during ferocious fighting, and after everyone had scattered, few wanted to find it again.

The other fighting pit is the Hungry Bastard. This was a nickname rather than an official title, yet it is this that remains spoken in stories – no doubt a creation of dark humour. This is said to have existed at the bottom of a sea, perhaps the Atlantic Ocean, but no one knows for sure. Back during the Raging, somewhere in the first century after the Shadow World merged with ours, a number of powers allied and sent their prisoners to this place. The story goes that people poured in dozens a day, that the conquests of the allies ensured a steady stream of captives, and yet the Hungry Bastard was never close to being filled. It was a grim, brutal place, there to slaughter the incoming victims, if it also produced many savage, broken warriors who went on to serve their captors. It consumed for decades as a world of billions became one of millions, this being just one of the causes, until those who fed it were all defeated. The pit itself was never found, so none truly know what became of it. Perhaps it still sits, waiting for more food.

There are many ways to die in this world. Also to suffer. Also to make others suffer. This is not a pleasant place and most understand it, even embrace it. Fighting pits are a practical outlet in many ways, yet often represent more darker and crafty appetites. They have their uses, and so while now and then something goes wrong somewhere, when prisoners break out or an outside attack occurs, they never go out of fashion. As mentioned at the beginning, most of the world hears of them only, and the horrors within. To many, fighting pits sound grimly entertaining. But to others, they are everything – a life of blood and brutality and captivity.

I should also mention another feature about the pits. As much as those who run them enjoy their power and often stamp their authority on their prisoners, they all have a deep dread. Anyone who runs or works at a fighting pit has a lingering, whispered fear. For most, this fear never materialises, but the tales of when it does spread around. Havoc, the infamous warrior, has a habit of breaking into fighting pits. He leads his gang of mad-dogs around the world at breakneck pace (usually he does but he is currently sitting things out) and expects every member to do their part. He has recruited many from the pits. It is every pit owner’s nightmare that Havoc will show up and slaughter everyone in charge, for that is his practice. Afterwards, he makes everyone fight and chooses some to join him, others he may just let go. Of course, this means those confined within a pit wouldn’t be too keen to see Havoc and his gang appear either, but for many, such an end would be far better than the life they live. Especially if they can see their captors and tormentors dead first.

Fighting pits are told in tales, some true, some complete fiction, many a mix of both. In a world as cruel and callous as this one can be, none doubt such a thing could be happening. Too many have tasted what people – of all kinds – can do to others. Slavery exists. Murder is matter-of-fact to some. War is celebrated by certain groups. While there are more peaceful and secure realms, while there are many people who live better lives than most, even they know what individuals and communities can be pushed to. Essentially, everyone knows that if you end up in a fighting pit, hope you’re the one at the higher level, looking down at the unfortunates who kill or die, who are just striving to live another day. Of course, also know that if any of those unfortunates could get their hands on you, they’d likely bite your throat out. If the roles were reversed, so would you.

Magical Mutations

Typically, when it comes to discussing mutants, we mean beings who have been transformed and/or disfigured by science, either by design or accident. So there are those who were created in labs – sometimes for the better, others ruined by failed experiments – and those brought about by accidents or attacks featuring radiation, biological warfare or various pollutants. Of course, many of those accidents were suspected of being deliberate when they occurred. For instance, Eastern Europe became flooded with radiation briefly, and some suspected this was an attack by an outside force, but others claimed those in charge were analysing the effects before carrying out their own experimentation. After all, the radiation ‘cleared’ up quickly. Back then, the technology to counter those kinds of accidents was available for some, as was magic and magi wishes. This means that, while the mutant race continues today, the events that created many have little or no presence.

Speaking of magic, just as it seeped into the world and made it something new, so it had its effect on the inhabitants. Many types of beings have been altered due to the presence of magic, and also by nature itself, now that has been introduced to the Shadow World. There are instances of magic and science interacting too, such as in the Caribbean when a nuclear strike landed. That area has never been the same since and we’ll talk more of it later. Mostly, though, magic did its own thing and usually that took time. People have been changed by it. For the majority they are never classified as mutants, but in truth, they aren’t much different.

A strong example of this is Africa. The people there have spent a long time living in a continent now overgrown by jungle. The idea of this place being a land of desert is ridiculous to them. Magic was used, Africa was reborn and the Dark Land became a haven for humans. They lived amidst the shadowy jungles, beneath the entwined branches and vines, and they changed to have larger irises and be able to see better in the dark. They hunt the monsters there, because, for all that the creatures of the Shadow World came from such a named place, they don’t see in the dark any better than most things. Now, the people of Africa are seen as human and count themselves as such, yet there is no doubt they aren’t the same as everyone else. But then again, many aren’t.

Another region is the Philippines. Here, long ago, a powerful magical bombardment came from Japan, a land strong in magic. This was before the Japanese people left their homeland and were fighting for it against many powerful enemies. It has never been thought of as a deliberate attack, more likely a deflection of some kind. Some even praise it as a gift. That’s because people born and living there who aren’t magic-users will often have some kind of special ability. It varies from something small, such as a click of the fingers creating magical sparks, to being attuned to the weather. Again, none of these individuals are counted as mutants and there is no fear of them among their people. It is part of who they are. Often, those abilities come in handy defending their home.

Returning to the Caribbean, the nuclear attack of over two centuries ago left that group of islands broken and changed. In fact, most of Central America is gone. Again, there are claims and counter claims of responsibility here. Most say humans fired to stop a mutant horde from coming north, although far more mutants were made in the northern hemisphere than otherwise. Some wonder if the attack was directed at the magically charged islands. Many humans say the computers fired. Either way, a devastating assault was launched. It hit Mexico but also the Caribbean, and the result of nuclear power meeting magic set off a wild and bizarre reaction that, legends say, completely overwhelmed the rest of the nuclear explosions. Now, between the northern and southern continents of the Americas, is a wide spread of tiny islands – some not much more than large rocks in the ocean. Despite everything, people live there, and have done since then. Yes, many were killed, but it seems some survived the devastation and others moved there over time, either by choice or forced to as they fled other threats. The people there aren’t quite the same as everyone else. For one, they have to be very tough to live there, so even the more ordinary islander is a toughened, determined survivor. But many have something special about them too. Not as flamboyant or obvious as the Lilliputians. Well, not always, because the magic-user Razmatazz is about as flamboyant as they come. No, usually it is more inward. A higher level of perception perhaps. A stronger will. Some good examples would be Persephone, who gets a strong sense of what people are about to do, especially in a fight; Tryst, who has incredible luck, sometimes to the detriment of those around her; FUG, who is a very ugly (the U in the name stands for Ugly) yet physically strong and resilient fighter.

A mention has to go to Great Britain, the last magical hotspot to be fully lived on. Here more weird things happen and people can be born with some strangeness that is less surprising than it would be to us. Bruin is a man who cannot be cut or stabbed, and even he doesn’t truly know why. Dalliance is a bright champion and I mean that literally. Also, this doesn’t just pertain to humans. The Beast is a giant brute and the Serpent is a, well, giant writher. Also there is Gobbler, who was once a big fat man who succumbed to a brain-maggot, which then slithered into his mouth to rest in safety. He woke later, only he and the creature had merged, and now he wanders around, seemingly simple-minded, yet with a tongue that can lash out and latch on so he can feed. He has even swallowed people up whole, hence the name.

In many respects, these are all mutants, but never are they named such. The divide between human and mutant is much more blurred than the rest, with the exception of cyborgs, and for the most part it depends on how a group or person identifies. There is a group in Africa where the men are born as super-soldiers and the women are more human like, if more athletic than usual, and so while they could all be considered mutants, they have often seen themselves as humans. There is also a group of super-soldiers in the Baltic region who don’t know what they truly are, so see themselves as just big, strong humans, born to prevail in the harsh climate. After all, Monolith roams there and he is human, also called such, despite being bigger than any of them.

When it comes to magical mutations, those involved are seen as monsters or freaks more than mutants. Another example here would be witches. These are magic-users with some level of psychic power, so they stand out even among those empowered by magic. There have also been those who use magic to transform people. Once a being called Valentius enjoyed reshaping others, sometimes to punish, often to try and create a better army. None of his successes lived past his downfall. Enacting this desire isn’t just an issue of power but skill and imagination, so while others continue to try this now and then, few get anywhere.

The truth is there just aren’t enough magically mutated people around to bring about a sense of identification or a concept of uniting with the ‘normal’ mutants. The only case where this is close to being so is in Asia. Before the Shadow World came, China and India were strong rivals, both well equipped technologically. Many mutants were mass produced by the Chinese, but the latter refused to create new life due to religious beliefs. At least not while the centralised government was in charge. But in both nations magic was found among the poorer people, so while machines were built and battles were fought, authority collapsed and the Raging began, many communities sought to keep themselves safe via what power they had. They created havens – a term used for when people embed spells around their settlement or if they dwell on a place strong in magic which they can utilise. Then, when things got even worse, when biological and chemical weapons were brought into play, these havens helped many survive. The key word here is survive. Magic did what it could to keep those it was meant to alive, yet it could not prevent the physical effects completely. People were changed and I’ll go into that more another time, but these and the other mutants now interact, feeling more akin than with the fearful humans around them.

One last group to mention are the Dragon Singers – to some a fable, to others a part of history. Dragons did much while they were around, they destroyed cities and nested in the ashes, but they could also bless and protect people. It is said all dragons loved to hear singing, and those who could sing so well as to send one to sleep were especially honoured. They would be quite liked by everyone else too! Many of these were blessed by dragons, and some of the descendants of them still bear the legacy. Dragon Singers are supposedly immune to fire and even a lot of magic, they can sing spells and dance like no one else. Some herald them as majestic beings to be adored, others propose that they have scaled skin and slitted pupils, and are the spies for the dragons for when they return.

Magical mutation is a very real thing, and while few will ever be seen as mutants, it is just another reminder that few things are ever so neat and tidy so as to bracket everyone in restricted groups. People will view with suspicion what is different, will praise what helps them, fear what threatens. Communities form and band together, using names to make them united and strong, but many will stand out and look to make their own name. Magic has taken its toll and given a great deal of blessing to the world, the very nature of reality has become less predictable, less controllable, and more open to the strange and unusual. Science has broken barriers and opened new doors as well, and so together, mutation, evolution and development of all kinds is there to be sought out.

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.