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.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny

When you have faith in specific institutions, and that faith is ripped apart by cataclysmic events, how do you continue? Do you admit you were wrong and try a new path? Perhaps some would. That was not the course of the Grand Master, leader of the Order of Mechanised Tyranny. He is one of the oldest beings alive, having lived before the arrival of the Shadow World. He was a general in the army of the United States of America, and he had total faith in his country, its armed forces, and also in God. He knew his homeland was safe because of the deity he worshipped and the soldiers he commanded. When he witnessed the downfall of humanity, he saw his faith prove worthless. The armed forces could not overcome the magic and monsters that appeared. Soon they were outclassed by the creation of super-soldiers, cyborgs and other machines. As for God, there were no answers to the general’s prayers.

The general did win victories, however. When his forces were supplemented with super-soldiers and cyborgs, he was able to defeat a machine army. Power won the day, not faith, and certainly not humans. He saw the future in the cyborg race. More and more people were getting improvements – either soldiers for defence or the rich for better lives – and he demanded his forces become the main focus. He never took to mutants; perhaps there was still some lingering of his old faith in seeing them as abominations. Maybe. Few know the mind of this individual as he once was. What is known is mostly who he is and the sect he leads, the latter reflecting the first. The Grand Master forged the sect in his singular vision. He has never faltered since.

To return to his past, the general had lost faith in God and saw the only chance of survival for the human race was biomechanically improved soldiers. More than that, he saw humanity reborn, not just mechanised but forged within as well, moulded into a dedicated and dutiful force. No civilians, no politicians, no weaknesses. Cyborgs of all kinds were being made, and this was not something the general approved of. Control of the country had been sliding away for some time, the general had more recently been serving a new and localised government, so saw no issue in choosing to take command himself. Others had failed them all. He would not.

The general managed to get his soldiers altered, himself too, and they began their march to a new, stronger way of life. Others were made to join them. More and more became cyborgs, but more than this, they became soldiers who followed his orders and pledged themselves to his way of life. Obey, serve, fight, kill, die. Cyborgs began in one place and could have been a united race, yet factions emerged and then they splintered. The Grand Master and his aggressive, militarised sect were a major driving force in that disruption.

Yet the sect was more than military cyborgs. The Grand Master was not the only follower of faith to lose his way. Others in organised religion saw the Shadow World and the chaotic consequences as either end times, punishment or evidence that no higher power was protecting them. Many who once believed fervently became fervent enemies to faith. Those who saw the Grand Master’s sect recognised the anger he possessed and joined him, proclaiming their loyalty, pledging their enmity. More than this, a number of those who had commanded in religions now saw their power waning, and spotted opportunity in this sect. Preachers of faith turned into preachers of anti-faith. Militant believers were now militant disbelievers. The Grand Master was soon commanding much more than a mere army. He led a passionate, fanatical legion of soldiers.

It has been suggested that perhaps the Grand Master allowed these once-believers into his ranks to laugh at religion. An insult to God even. None know. Maybe he saw kindred spirits or merely useful tools. Whatever his reasoning, the Grand Master made a choice and his sect changed, and he saw the benefits. He had lost his faith in God, as well as his faith in humanity, his country, in the military as he had known it. All of it was gone. But he had pushed and remade his military might to become something stronger, and now he could remake the religion as well.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny is a sect of conformity, with all the trappings of the military and religion. They march in step by ranks, crushing all opposition, converting those they choose to. They are religious yet without any god to waste their time on. Everyone is uniformed, to the extent that all are regarded as male. They all wear the same, including masks, and their swords are attached to their right arms regardless of favoured sides. Everything and everyone must act as one, as the Grand Master wishes it. His will is done, his vision is fought for. When he had been a God-fearing general, he had fancied he had a special destiny, or at least a favoured standing from which he could act for the good of all. His faith in God had been ripped away, but his faith in himself had faltered, then regrouped, and now was stronger than ever.

His followers believe in him equally, and also in his new way of life. Their religion is about their sect, their laws, their truths. For instance, they have Six Sins, which are disobedience, disloyalty, cowardice, dishonesty, slothfulness and mercy. Anything that could harm the sect is bad, essentially. They must all be dedicated and focused, working tirelessly, never doubting. Their Nine Virtues are courage, dedication, intelligence, purity, resolution, integrity, excellence, diligence and sacrifice. These may sound worthy virtues, and they are, and yet for the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, many of these words have a slight twist in meaning. For them, being resolute is about being ruthless. Integrity insists that when you proclaim your loyalty, you mean it, that your actions follow the same course. Sacrifice can mean soldiers giving up their lives for the sect, but also the ‘sacrifice’ of non-members as they are defeated. These lists are drilled into the minds of recruits, often during Recitals. There are three a day, every day, in any base or outpost around the world. Attendance is mandatory unless your services are necessitated elsewhere, such as guard duty. They do not pray, but they recite their laws and other mantras. Their faith in the sect must be absolute.

A quick mention should be made of their understanding of eternal life. This is something few outside the sect know of. Basically, all personal information goes into the sect’s database. All that individuality which is surrendered on joining, this is stored, and so is kept for all time. Members of the sect long dead are in there. They are remembered at Recitals as well. Past victories, and sometime defeats if useful for instruction, are recalled. The sense that the sect lives, and thus do all who live in it, is the new truth to them. Those born in the sect are given an identity as children, then taken away and stored, so they can believe equally. After that, they are just more ranked members, moving parts of the greater whole, fighting on. To the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, the saying is true – life is struggle, struggle is war, war is life. We are always at war. We live for ever.

Mentioning all of this, I must return to those previously mentioned fanatics who made the sect what it is, at the Grand Master’s behest. To outsiders, all members look the same and are the same really, and that is how he likes it. The truth is that there are some differences. Most are soldiers, with officers leading them. Yet some belong to other groups. One is the clergy. This is the result of those ex-religious, anti-faith recruits. The Grand Master utilised them and created a branch of his sect to fuel the rest with speeches and incitement. Soldiers who show enthusiasm along with eloquence are nominated to enter this group and, if successful, become as powerful as officers. Cardinals, for instance, act like roving high commanders, showing up to ensure unquestioning loyalty is ever present. In that regard, the clergy are part cheerleaders, part secret police.

Obey our law. Judge others according to it. Anything else is wrong. The meek are accursed, the strong will take the world. We are the strongest and the world is ours to claim. This is the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, a sect built and honed by the Grand Master himself, driven by his will, and it pleases him greatly. There is much more to be learned, about both the man himself and his followers, but for now, all anyone needs to know, is that when the red and black clad legions appear, make ready to fight for your life. They will not stop until they have it, one way or the other.

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.

How to Talk Around the World

So when the world is a broken and battered place, when civilisations have crumbled and many beings of all kinds live in their own communities, watching out for threats, there are obvious problems in communication. You can’t pick up a phone and call the next group over to see if they want to talk, trade or just fight it out. You can’t pick up a newspaper and read about the happenings on another continent. You also can’t surf the web, although you can paddle about in what’s left of it. More on that later.

The point is, for people to get to know those far from them, it takes a lot of work. Leaders around the world, at least those in strong enough standing to know there is a lot going on in the world, want to keep an eye, and also an ear, on current events. Even if they preach seclusion, they themselves need to know. Because there are a good number of individuals like this, various methods of communication have been developed. Some even reach around the world. But all have their risks and often different means are used by different people. Nothing is easy.

Any of the more technological groups that want to stay in touch have a few means of this. Cyborgs sects, machine nations, underground bases of humans – these usually possess equipment that can transmit messages over far distances. Not around the world though, not any more. Once the world was surrounded by satellites that, among other tasks, bounced messages between each other, on their way to and from places of the Earth’s surface. Many of those were destroyed as nations used cyber attacks and orbital devices to hinder each other in any way possible. Communications were cut. Spy satellites were shot down. But as well as this, control centres below were destroyed or abandoned, and so the satellites they were in control of were left to drift in the grasp of gravity. Due to human action, human dereliction and just the simple passing of time, the fact is that while there are a good number of satellites still circling the world, not many are functioning properly, and gaining access to them is very difficult.

As I said, the internet has gone, yet there remains some vestiges of it left. What was once a information highway is now more a series of streets and alleys that connect only if you know the right turnings. In essence, cyborg leaders and others who can access these satellites – and few can access all of them – know that at certain times certain satellites connect and they can talk to, well, certain people. Sometimes they can talk and just hope another is listening, other times there can be direct conversations. It all depends on equipment available, timing and power sources. Even then, there is no point where access grants world-wide coverage. You wait, talk within a certain region, then wait again or try passing messages around to get to the right person. This is also very difficult as most who can do this don’t let their guard down often. Some, not at all.

So the information network, as leaders such as Prime, Jamshid and the Grand Master call it, can be used by them to argue with each other or try to discuss problems. Eden, that bastion of humanity, can access it but won’t for fear of what the outer world may bring. Individuals like Miss Mech can work their way in if she finds the right place to link with satellites, which she is seeking as she wants to gather as much of the stored information within them as possible. The network has uses, and knowledge, and so both are sought after by those with power.

That is by far the most technological method. Cyborg sects have relays and bases so they can reach out across continents and talk to each other, but only within their sect. Some groups, such as the mutant military in the Middle East, have radio towers. In the Northern Federation, they have an actual media, made up of newspapers and radio stations. But otherwise, if you want to talk to others world-wide, you need magical or physical means.

Portals exist around the world and messages can be transmitted via them. This has been proven. It helps if you are a magic-user as then you can command the portal to latch onto the place you want – if it links there naturally – and then send a message through. Magic can be used that way, and in other ways besides using portals. Spells can be voice commands that open to the receiver. With a healthy power source and strong will, communication can be established and maintained over distance, if those at both ends are able. A group of magic-users who are attuned can spend time establishing a harmonious feeling among themselves so that they can later connect to each other no matter the range, although this is very difficult to accomplish. Magical items can be fashioned for this purpose as well.

So if there is such as thing as the information network on a scientific level, there is also a kind of magical version, where portals, spells, magic-users and magical items all come into play. Messages can be passed around, sources of transmissions can be detected, so that someone, such as the Demon King at Trade Island, could find a way to talk to other devil-beasts. Obviously this would be a fairly public form of communication. Instead of satellites, there would be living beings involved in spreading the word, and they can rarely be trusted. Which brings us to the next segment.

When it comes to a magical network, the most essential part of it has to be pixies. These tiny creatures are experts in camouflage and subtlety, and they are strong in magic if not in physique. Therefore they make outstanding messengers. Obviously, they could be told something and sent out to relay it verbally, and yet pixies are known for mischief and deception as much as anything, so unless someone has a pixie to send that is utterly trusted, the message will be magical, for the intended person’s ears only. For instance, the spell would be passed on from one pixie to the next, flying under the watches of so many, passing undetected by both science and magic, until the service was complete. Pixies have been around the world a great deal in their attempts to avoid being captured and utilised by other beings, so they know how to get around, and they want to be useful to powerful people. The same is true for magi. As I have mentioned before, magi and pixies have a close bond, a shard lifestyle. Both are hunted for their gifts, both known for cunning and trickery in order to survive, and so both work well together in organising and conveying messages around the globe. It leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many, like the Demon King or Gemini, that magi are out there, hiding, and yet know well a lot of the chatter going around. Magi make it their business to know, in case their ability to hide is ever proven inadequate. To some, magi are just gathering information, biding their time before they act against everyone else. Often that is mere prejudice or paranoia, and yet it isn’t unreasonable to suspect these two races of being up to something. However, without proof, both pixies and magi are too good at running the communications for anyone to want to remove them.

Still, there are further options. Sometimes you just want someone to physically take your message and bring it to your target. Takes longer, might seem somewhat mundane, yet there are two groups this can be entrusted too. The better is the Sect of Shadow and Steel. The members of this organisation of assassins can use shadows to travel around the world, so not only can they get from place to place a lot quicker and easier than most, they are far from vulnerable to ambushes. Usually the Sect are killers, lethal fighters with special blades, but they also sideline as spies and messengers, taking these duties as seriously as they do when dealing with death. The Sect hold honour high, among themselves and when concerning the outer world, so if you hire them to do something, they do it with their utmost ability. Messages that are vital are handed to the Sect. Even if an organisation has their own means to talk to each other, the Sect will sometimes be trusted the most. Of course, just as with the pixies and magi, it leaves a number of people resenting their position in the world’s set-up and wishing to usurp them.

The other group who can take messages around the world by physical means are the aquatics. These sea-living mutants roam all over and intermingle often. Now, they don’t have the intense honour code or deadly skills of the Sect, nor can swimming through seas be anywhere near as swift as jumping in and out of shadows. But the aquatics are trustworthy to those who have earned it and they feel very safe in their own environment, away from cyborgs and machines and most monsters and humans. The aquatics know the currents, and they can pass messages around so as to keep the line of communication as rapid as can be. This race has an uneasy relationship with the races who live on land. The aquatics see the seas as theirs, they resist strenuously serious attempts to enter it, and yet they know that trading with the others benefits them. They want to keep in touch, they want to lend a hand, they want to have an idea of who is talking to who. As the Sect and others know, being part of communications between other organisations means you have an idea of what is really going on, and who is doing it. You can’t pry too much, you can’t let anyone down or betray them, and others will want the information you have. But being a small part of the growing and developing networks is a lot better than being left out.

Those are the major forms of communication. None are fullproof. Everything is a risk when you try for something important. As well as these, there are spies and agents for various groups. Of course, if these are any good at their jobs then most will have no idea of who they are and what they are doing. If not, they won’t be around long enough to take note of. Speaking of such, there is a fabled cyborg sect claimed to be specialists in infiltration. According to the rumour, they are a sect who favour the human over the machine, much like the Order of Organic Triumph do. Therefore they can pass off as humans or even mutants, although, while the Organic Triumph can do so if they avoid close inspection, this sect is said to be able to fool all manner of tests and devices. Being cyborgs, they supposedly can go among the other sects as well, changing their forms to fit in. This is all hearsay, of course. The name and origin of this sect is unknown, and while that should indicate they are nothing more than a rumour, the fact they are so secret would support just how adept they are at infiltration.

As for any other type of messengers, there are two more worth noting. One are the messengers who operate around Europe, mostly between the market towns of the Mediterranean coastline. Lacking technological means to talk to each other, and to get word to mercenaries or pirate hunters on short notice, the towns have developed a messenger role. In essence, if you are quick, you can become one, and the more time spent proving yourself, the more important messages you get, along with better pay. The main feature of these beings is that they must wear red. This grants them some protection, but mostly you need to fend for yourself and get the job done.

Returning to cyborgs, we must mention the Order of the Hybrid Complex. This is one of the most powerful sects and led by the ancient Prime. He resides in a hidden base – secret to both enemies and most of his own followers. The only cyborgs he has any real contact with are his Ravens. These beings are more machine than human, unlike the sect itself, and contain his most loyal minions. They are built to be light, fast and very dangerous. Gabriel and Hermes are the two top ranking Ravens, said to be among his first disciples, and when Prime wishes messages to be so secret he won’t even trust his sect’s own communications, let alone the information network, he tasks them to get his order sent. If any of his commanders waging war see a Raven, they know it is more important than anything else they have been commanded to do, and just as urgent. The Ravens are revered in the sect, and yet also somewhat feared and suspected. After all, when your leader trusts an inner group more than those fighting for him, it makes you wonder what he is up to.

Communication is more important now than it has been since perhaps even the Shadow World’s arrival. If more nations had talked then, a lot of the madness that followed may have been prevented. May have. Powers and groups have been growing for some time and many are starting to think now is the time to act. Or sometime soon at least. The question is where to act, against who, and possibly with who on the same side. Allies and enemies are being sought. Knowledge is still power. Messages are vital and therefore so are the systems and groups involved in carrying them. Perhaps it will become truly global one day. Whether that will be good or bad is yet to be seen.

Rivalries

The world is a maelstrom of factions, organisations and powers, vying for dominance. Everyone wants similar things – to survive, to prosper, to be safe – while many want more – to prevail, to control, to conquer, to eliminate. For this reason, most types of beings are competing against each other, whether for resources, ideas, territory, people or more. Yet, there are many who have a specific rivalry that goes far beyond necessity. There are those on the world who have their arch-rival, their nemesis, or just someone or something they really hate.

So let’s go through the major rivalries:

A great place to start is with the cyborg sects. While they are all competing with each other to recruit people and grow in strength, each hoping to become the unrivalled power among their kind, some have personal enmity to fuel their fight. For instance, the Order of the Hybrid Complex and the Order of Mechanised Tyranny are arguably the two leading sects, with the Order of Symbiotic Harmony a close third, and they have been warring since the beginning. Prime, the leader of the Hybrid Complex, and the Grand Master, likewise leader of the Mechanised Tyranny, both lived before the Shadow World came, so their sects are not just the top two, but the oldest. Both leaders know of each other as well, and their views do not mesh. Jamshid, the leader of the Order of Exclusive Excellence, was also alive back then. His sect is small and elitist, so not a powerful rival, yet all three individuals have crossed swords and battled ideologically over the centuries. Basically, the three men want each other gone.

When it comes to the Order of Symbiotic Harmony, they are led by the Author, as he calls himself. Here is a strong rivalry with the Hybrid Complex and Prime, because the Author was a member of that sect. He betrayed his leader and made his own group, so ending them would be more than satisfying for Prime and his followers.

Returning to the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, they are a very aggressive and belligerent sect, so they have made many enemies. They have ended many sects, so any survivors want revenge, and they are claimed to have ended the fabled First Sect, also known as the Lost Sect. Some suggest not all of that sect was destroyed and they are hiding, hence the second name, and if so, they have their sights set firmly on the Grand Master and his soldiers. Also, the Order of Organic Triumph has suffered much from them, being a more peaceful sect where cyborgs have less machinery attached and so look more human. This is the polar opposite of the Mechanised Tyranny’s way of living. Another foe the Grand Master has made is Nebulous. This entity runs the Mekazone and had his arse firmly handed to him long ago by the Mechanised Tyranny when he first tried to break out from his own territory. This is why he has stayed put and built his strength up, apart from some raids via portals, and he is planning his revenge, if he ever has the guts to try it.

Oh, and another foe for the Grand Master is Eden. At least, in this case the enmity is all on his side, as Eden has no idea he or his sect exists. But he knows of Eden, the hi-tech sanctuary of humans, and so sends the occasional force on crusade to destroy it. So far, all have been lost, but that doesn’t matter to him. He knows the threat Eden poses. As do the mutants. A mutant army has formed and consolidated its command of land, stretching from Eastern Europe to beyond where Eden sits, and its main purpose is to destroy the stronghold. They have surrounded it and attack often, to great cost, and still Eden stands, resolute and brilliant. If the humans from there came out to lead the humans around the world, mutants – and all others – could soon find themselves a hunted race. So they continue to attack, hating it intensely. Many who fight against it hate it for the toll it takes on them as much as what it threatens to do.

Mutants hate humans, this is well known. Because of their origins, they want revenge, even though that was all centuries ago. Humans hate mutants, this is equally well known. The bitter rivalry is at the forefront of all hatreds and blood-feuds. Of course, this isn’t as clear cut as many think. In some places humans and mutants have more pressing issues than past injustice. But as a general rule, these two races have shed a lot of each other’s blood, and both sides know it.

Another of the most famous feuds is devil-beasts and aegis. These two races of monsters warred over humanity, but their very natures seem to indicate peace was never an option between them. They fight and kill each other on sight. There is never a question of will they be a threat to each other. The default setting of both sides is that of enemy. Perhaps some can be shown to be otherwise, strange things do happen in this world. Yet if all others in the world made peace, aegis and devil-beasts will most likely still be clawing at each other until one side is no more.

Then again, there is another race of monsters devil-beasts hate, and it could be argued over which they hate more. The rivalry with the aegis is old and natural, but their hatred of scions is far more personal. That is because scions betrayed them. Scions were originally devil-beasts, so to speak. Born from devil-beasts, they were subjected to intensive magic by their own kind while in the womb, until they were birthed in a different form. Scions have red skin and golden hair and eyes, representing their heritage in a way, yet they have human forms and look pleasing to the eye. Scions were created by devil-beasts for one purpose: to infiltrate the human race, dazzle, charm and bewitch as necessary, and then ruin them. It was a cruel plan, aimed to break humanity as well as hurt it, and some would laugh mirthlessly at how this act turned on them. The scions were taught to deceive and harm, and they kept to their nature. Many did as instructed, but many more did not, and as a race the scions were soon hated and hunted by their parent kind, having caused as much damage to them as anyone else. The details of that are for another post, but scions remain their own kind, plotting and manipulating, and the devil-beasts want them all slaughtered.

A quick mention here is deserved for the denizens. These monsters don’t exactly have a rivalry, but they are a main target for other monster races. Aegis and totems took to humanity’s side in the early struggles, but this was understandable as they acted according to their nature – guardians and protectors. Denizens made a choice. They were even feared and disliked by humans early on. They chose to help humans, seeing it as more logical, so other monsters see them as the greater traitors.

A rivalry most won’t know or care for is that between aquatics and sharks. Aquatics are the mutants who live in the sea and have it to themselves for the most part. Meanwhile, sharks are more intelligent having been worked on in the past by humans. No one is sure why or when this was done, but it means sharks aren’t just the usual eating machines. They can discern. Typically, they are fine with humans and others now, knowing what to eat and what not, but aquatics are a threat. Sharks are intelligent enough to see what a dominant species will do to its environment. They are to aquatics what wolves have often been portrayed as – hunting animals to be feared.

A genuine concern for the aquatics are gleaners. These abominable monsters don’t breathe, so they are known to live underwater as well as in dank caverns. If any race could move into the sea and take it from the aquatics, it is the race of gleaners. Intrusions by land dwellers are met with vigorous defence, sometimes attacks, by the aquatics, but when gleaners are the invaders, the response is as hostile in intent as it is vicious in action. Oh, and the Order of Mechanised Tyranny earns another mention here. Of all the land based groups, they have the strongest presence at sea, with numerous island bases and several fleets of ships. I wouldn’t really classify the aquatics and them as rivals, but it is certainly a likely outcome in the future.

Finally, a rivalry that has been going on for some time but is something of a secret is that of the one among assassin organisations. There are a few groups that operate around the world and their services are costly. This means they are well connected, often working for some of the most powerful and influential people around, which brings a level of security few know, and a life of privilege to be jealously guarded. Not only do these groups kill for pay, they spend a lot of time performing other services, such as spying, carrying messages, gathering information, etc. In this world, with so much chaos and mystery going on, knowledge is indeed power, and they know it.

The Sect of Shadow and Steel is the strongest group of assassins, who are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their abilities. Most people know them as figures of legend, not by their actual name, and some even worship the killers. The Sect has mastered the dark arts, travelling the world swiftly via shadows, slaying with ease, spying and learning while none even knows they are present. They sit at the top, and so do what they can to ensure other rivals fail. It has been known for Sect members to show up and strike down assassins. They can hunt down spies and eliminate messengers. All so they are the ones turned to in order for the task to be achieved.

There are various other groups competing with them and I’ll leave that for another post. But one of the stronger groups is Myriad. This organisation seeks out skilled fighters and equips them with magical weaponry and gear, and increases these gifts as they prove themselves. They are a loose collection of individuals rather than a united group, like the Sect, but those who run Myriad – whoever they are – have a vested interest in ending the Sect’s dominance, if not outright ending the Sect altogether. Nothing has worked so far, obviously, but if a member of Myriad sees a member of the Sect – easily recognised by their all black clothing and all white eyes – then weapons are drawn. There is no better way of proving yourself to Myriad than to kill a Sect assassin. Although, there are few ways better to get yourself killed, too.

Obviously rivalry is everywhere and this post could go on for a very long time. There are the business families in Trade Island who compete for financial power, as well as the gangs there. In Australasia, the debate amongst the Japanese as to whether magic or science is the way to live, is a passionate but secret rivalry. Also, the peninsulars of Europe – Iberian, Italian and Aegean – host market towns that even go so far as to hire mercenaries against each other, while pirates and pirate hunters fight across the Mediterranean. Rivalry is easy to start and very difficult to end. Anywhere two beings are struggling to survive, there is competition. But the ones I’ve covered are some of the biggest and also baddest going. Famous, old, ferocious, bloody, potentially never ending. The Grand Master wants the heads of his old foes and many more want his. Aegis and devil-beasts still rend the skies as they fight. Humans and mutants fear each other gaining the power to take over. It is all ongoing and feels like it is getting worse over time. Where it will end, if it will, is what we will find out over the course of my stories.

Shadow News is Talking

Recondite Publications is now running a serious of posts where imagined interviews take place to reveal what is going on in the world of Sojourners In Shadow. It should provide extra insight into characters, groups and races in a more fun form than my long, winding blog posts. 😉

The first one is here:

http://www.reconditepublications.com/shadow-news/

Let’s Talk About Sects

So in my world featured in Sojourners of Shadows – our world in the future, but changed by supernatural and scientific events – we have cyborgs, and these beings are broken up into sects. Now there are those who go their own way, some are even forced to. Of these, some walk the earth alone, surviving as they can, while others team up with who or whatever they can, in order to live, overcome or ascend in rank.

But for the main part, cyborgs live in organisations, the same organisations that created them. Cyborgs cannot be born cyborgs. They begin human. When a child is born within a sect, it is worked on and developed as it grows up. To this child, this is neither unusual or wrong. It is all part of becoming a cyborg. Not all are born within a sect, though. Many humans are captured and converted. Some go willingly, but most do not. For cyborgs, they are helping the humans. For humans, cyborgs are an enemy to be dreaded.

To understand my cyborgs and their sects, we need to go back to the beginning. When the Shadow World is unleashed, the human race responds in various ways, often acting desperately and rapidly. The shackles come off. Cyborgs are created in certain parts of the world so that improved soldiers can be sent into battle. This is also the origin for super-soldiers, the superior mutants bred to win. Cyborgs were obviously more expensive and harder to make, however, so the process was more selective. The technology was difficult too. Some of it was shared around to increase the capabilities of all nations to defend themselves, but not all of it.

When cyborgs proved their worth – in battle but also that it was possible at all – the military took as much control of it as they could, but others were involved, and people in general wanted more of a say. Many feared these robot-humans, others revered them. More soldiers were altered, but soon rich people began to have minor work done. They also funded further development so their adapted additions were superior. Also, they sought to look less robotic. Of course, those in it for the power and might pushed for a more mechanical side.

Soon the debate was on. Should a cyborg be more human, more machine, or seek a balance?

But the cyborgs represented change. Everything was changing then. Nations were collapsing. Droids and mutants were being made. Magic was soaring. The social structures people were so used to were collapsing. Many welcomed it.

For a long time before the Shadow World was brought to ours, people were looking for change. Many people looked at our race and loathed it. Greed, corruption, sloth, ignorance – all the usual traits we exhibit so well were, according to many, bringing about our end. There were cults seeking the apocalypse, others merely hoping for some kind of great transformation.

Cyborgs became a major draw to such people. This was the time for people to ascend to a new level of existence.

Of course, there were many who believed that being a cyborg was too privileged a status to allow just anyone to join up.

Jamshid was, and still is, a man of two cultures – east and west – who used his considerable wealth and influence to gain a lead in the cyborg world. He and his associates were having advanced changes made to their bodies long before it became an option for the masses. He has nothing but disdain for this later development. He created the Order of Exclusive Excellence so that his elite could remain so. They are few but well protected in their base. They recruit, but those chosen have to prove themselves via rigorous testing. Their standards are high and their manner in handling qualification is ruthless.

The Grand Master was once a general and a God-fearing one at that. A patriot too. When the nations fell and the institutions he held so dear were overrun, he lost his faith in God and in defending his people. Cyborg soldiers were the future but to be unfettered by commitments to such ideals. Yet he knew the power of religion and the military. So he created the Order of Mechanised Tyranny. This was a sect that chose unity over individuality, that carried all the rigour and obedience that religion and the military could bring, yet without a god to pander to or a civilian population to be burdened with. They are the most aggressive of the cyborg sects. The most feared as well.

When the masses were given the chance to join the new cyborg race, those that did seek it received lesser work and had to obey various masters at first. Then came Prime. He was a preacher and leader of a cult that had hoped for a major change in humanity for some time. He saw this as their only hope for survival. He proclaimed that the human race could not survive in this new world. He urged his followers and many more to seek the change. When they did, he pushed for more. As authority grew weak, as the Grand Master led his troops away and Jamshid withdrew into hiding, Prime’s people took control. Thus began the Order of the Hybrid Complex. This was to be a collection of beings who had free will, who were united by choice and a shared dream, and who followed a balance of machine and human. They grew worldwide to be a numerous sect.

Prime, Jamshid and the Grand Master are three beings who knew the world before everything changed. They are most likely the only three such left. They are far more machine than man by now, yet not one has lost the fervour and focus that led them to becoming these leaders. Each still seeks to prevail over the others as well, along with the many other powers and forces around the world.

These are not the only cyborg sects. There is the Order of Symbiotic Harmony, where unity is sought, to the extent that thoughts are monitored and influenced by the leader. The Order of the Original Construct is a sect most believe to be no more, where the machine was dominant to such an extent few resembled humans any more. There is also the Order of Organic Triumph, which is very strong on individuality and puts the human over the machine.

There are more besides these.

Being a cyborg isn’t simply a case of being a human with robotic parts. Not for the most part. Some loners are mercenaries, others work as weapon-makers, and there is even the occasional self-made cyborg. But for the vast majority of cyborgs they are involved in a constant war of ideology. Being a cyborg is a way of life. There can be no compromising. There can be no peace. All sects war with each other in their pursuit of reclaiming a world currently lost to chaos and strife.

Of course, their division is to the advantage of everyone else. A united cyborg race would likely sweep over humans and mutants and monsters alike. Even other machines.

We’ll talk more about all of them later.