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.

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.