"In an era of change, one things remains constant: conflict and cash flows." - Lady Katherine McNair, "Queen" of England This story begins one hundred and fifty years ago. In a time in which America stood proud and mighty yet flawed, in a time in which Japan created ungodly technology, in a time in which the world stood on the edge of a conflict so massive that the world would be forever changed. As the rising threat of China collecting its dues from the United Western Socieites (Made up of a united North and South America), a state of cold war emerged. Both sides cut off trade, debt collections increased, and both stood on the edge of unleashing their armies on one another. In the end, it was America that struck first - and this is what would prove to change the world forever. Within but a fortnight, China stood with nothing but Beijing left, and that too was surrounded. Hong Kong had been crippled, the countryside had been razed in a "shock and awe" movement, and the Chinese were brought to their knees. However, such is the flaw of national support, for China had very little, and the UWS' support had always been something suspect, that weapons of mass destruction were called upon. First by China, merely to ease tension surrounding its country. Then the UWS counterattacked. In the end, both sides stood crushed. Destroyed. Obliterated. The years that followed were perhaps the worst the world had ever faced. Famine, harsh winters, and war spread as a result of the war that had torn apart the two world's greatest powers. Without the breadbasket of the world left, Europe looked to unity and Africa as a possible solution to end the suffering. The European Union - always an ideal, but never quite put into action - was destroyed as the nation-states became states ruled by lords and kings, and attempts to colonize the Sahel of Africa were put into action by the old Britian. Thus it was that the Sahel became the largest producer of food, Egypt and its surrounding areas became the manufacturing central, and Britian became the last stock market left on earth. However, this era of hardship brought with it more disasterous events than thought previously. Though the world has changed, perhaps Britain has changed for the better. As all the corporations flocked to the last stock market, a deep, unsettling tension began to take root within the city of London. Expansions were made, deals struck, until finally the corporations stood with enough influence to alter the makeup of the country itself. Phylum was created. A sprawling mass of urban territory expanding over the entire isle of Britian, this is what the old United Kingdom has become. However, a final blow was struck, forever changing Britian into Phylum. The entirity of the corporations began to blackmail their way into purchasing the government's assets, putting the corporations in control. That is, until Peterson Futuristics emerged to purchase these assets from the others - creating a situation in which the best corporation owns nearly 60% of the world's current population and then some.... "Ever set fire to something just to watch it burn?" - Even "Noise" Williams The old Scandinavian nations of Norway, Sweden, and Finland had also united into their own conglomerate, simply refered to as "Valhalla" by several people, usually in a slang term. The official name is the "United Scandinavian Nations", though Valhalla seemed much more of an apt name. It is truly a liberal paradise, though perhaps this is giving it too much credit, for several ideals of the modern world do not apply. Coroporate warfare, for example, is legalized in order to avoid a constant monopoly such like those encountered in New Stirland, cybernetic transplants are accepted and even promoted, and several of their businesses focus on public aid as would seem appropriate to their own agendas. Their capital, voted to be Stockholm, stands as a two-layered city in which resedential areas are held on the second layer and the first used for businesses - their skyscrapers acting as support beams for the second story. "If you can't make money in a warzone, then you just can't make money anyhow." -Common saying among gun manufacturers At last, the corporations of the world: Peterson Futuristics: Peterson futuristics is a corporation of innovation, idealistic approaches, and the future of technology. At least on the surface. In its core, it is run by a corrupt business tyrant who is the ruler of Phylum - for the best corporation retains the power - and will do anything to make a sale. Chandler Peterson's business tactics involve deceipt, assassination, off shore bank accounts: you name it, he does it. Most notorious of Peterson Futuristics' business strategies is its tendency to release a product just before another corporation does so, making it even more obvious that something beyond the surface is going on... Waylink Incorporated: In an era of a new latent psychic ability - or so Waylink claims - protection is needed. Originally Waylink started as a mere innovator in medical technology, until - according to their CEO - psychic abilities were discovered. They turned their attention to creating a drug to surpress such powers. Shortly after this drug (dubbed "Lock") was created, Waylink turned to paying off families for psychic-positive children in return they claimed it was "For their own good, as we are protecting them from the unseen terror that walks the streets". Lock consists of a seven hour process what obliterates the natural gift for psionics, but keeps the power alive within the host body. Next, a drug called "Latch" is needed to access the powers in small intervals - thus earning Waylink credits and limiting psychic abilities. After this program, however,the recruits are never seen again unless they come home in a body bag. Valhallan Medical: Valhallan medical is responsible for creating the cybernetic parts and bodies - for the most part, as Riggers more often than not muck about with such machines. They are a small, though powerful, corporation centered out of Stockholm. Each of their parts boasts being "hand made" and specialized to the purchaser. Each Cyber-U body (a transplant of a human mind to a machine's body, made to perfection) is a prize to be sought after indeed, for it promises eternal life devoid of needing to eat or drink and other facets of human life. Its advertisements focus on the "sexual appeal" of their products, using female models mainly as their product line's main "Pow" factor. However, often it's an insult to say "Oh, honey, you need a Cyber-U" as it has about the same effect as giving your significant other a stick of deoderant or other toiletry. "Smithson finds their mark...." "Hyperion hits...." "iMPRESS TECH, bringing you Apple's latest innovation in the military world. Built to Impress." "The hammer of the gods....Atlas" "Daul, Dual, Duel, take your pick. Daul's got it." "You got the creds? Astch's got the guns." "Kaboom, baby." Throughout the city of Phylus, there exists several, unique corporations each manufacturing a specfic style of firearms. Each of there corporations denies everything, but there's still something fishy about iMPRESS TECH's business model... iMPRESS TECH: iMPRESS TECH is the way Apple entered the arm's manufacturing world. Brought about by a rather nasty uprising in the work force, these weapons are all about the show. Each has several types of ammunition ranging from electrical rounds to incindiary grenades that fold out during flight. However, such shiny and fancy tools come at a price - these guns jam. If a full clip is fired without a jam, it's considered a stroke of luck. But hey, what else will go with your iPod 20... Hyperion: Hyperion is the main manufacturer of military arms in the modern world. Each weapon contains an aim-corrector intended to help the user so long as he keeps firing. Though it burns through ammunition, it is a help nevertheless to have an aim corrector sit back and take the hardship out of aiming weapons. Some critics say that this takes the joy out of the hunt....But then again, why bother when you can take out the pros? Smithson: Smithson is the traditional style arms maker. Each Smithson rifle is sure to never let you down, and is 'ma 'n 'pa made (meaning hand crafted). Most widely used by these arms makers are, of course, the bounty hunters hired by Smithson known as Marshals. Other than this elite branch of warriors, Smithsons are used by those who want a reliable gun at a slightly less expensive cost, though certainly more than Astch. Doesn't take much to do that, though. Daul: Daul's guns are an enigma to the modern world. Each has a wide variety of fire rates that seems rather excessive to most, however, the ability to go from single fire to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or even 7 bursts is a gift in and of itself. When it comes to the flexibility offered by a Daul, nothing comes close to beating what is called "The more reliable iMPRESS TECH". Astch: No real man would be caught with an Astch pistol. Mentioning the brand name is like mentioning a gang member, for the two go hand and hand. Astch guns are cheaply made, cheaply advertised, and generally rugged and reliable. Their only real strength is their cheap production cost and buyer cost, other than that, you're better off saving for a Smithson. BOOMtech and Kingmaker Ordnance: Boomtech and its elite brand known as Kingmaker both share one thing in common: explosions. Not a single weapon from either brand lacks an explosive charge of some sort, and all are big, brutal, and solid killing machines. Often these weapons are avoided by the private citizen - owning one is asking to repair collateral damage! Still, something about having the power of a stick of dynamite with each pull of the trigger is a reward of itself. Hell, probably why they're still in business. Atlas: "Hammer of the gods, crafted for man." Atlas doesn't fall short from its brand's catchphrase. Every single weapon that exits Atlas' foundries includes with it a life-time warranty and its own personalized case, but don't let that lead you to think that an Atlas is an unreliable weapon meant to be hung on a wall. Each model is tested on cybernetic targets first to ensure a one-shot one-kill policy, and so far not a single weapon (according to Atlas) has failed. Men have fought and died to own one of these legendary weapons, let alone keep them. Sometimes they really are worth an arm and a leg, yet again, cybernetics could fix that. Luckily Atlas owns a cybernetics center just for that... "Give me half a dozen hunters and I'll be sure to knock down their door with a thud." - Waylink Agent "Murdock" Cybernetics within the world are something that has always been hotly debated. On one side, it gives humanity a fleeting chance at longer life and immortality. On the other, argue those against the ideal, is not cybernetics what causes us to be more distant as human beings? In either case, cybernetics exist whether you support it or not. Often times they are used to great benefit, saving people from otherwise crippling medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and even the rare cases of polio. Still, with all great technologies of good, there shall always be those who wish to use it for personal gain. Waylink, realizing the potential androids had in their mission to stop psychics, began to convert those they captured into "Hunters". While normal androids or cyborgs are not mindless machines, Hunters are given little to no free will. There is still an echoing, tortured consciousness beyond the veil of steel and plastic, though it cannot interact with the world. Through the removal of flesh and blood, Waylink has created their own personal army of slaves to further their mission, and is not afraid to take even more bounds to make sure it stays that way. "Through chaos must come order. Go where the code takes you, do not shut it out. Sometimes it is a matter of finding harmony in your own inner world. Synapses fire with the fury of a gun. You stand on the edge of sanity. Nothing holds you back." -g00ru Conventional hacking methods have long since vanished as defense technology improved beyond that of modern day capabilities. Corporations created defense modules known as "ICE" unofficially to defend their servers. ICE takes the form of a virtual world built in the image of the corporation - for example, Valhalla Medical might include a Norse shield wall of warriors. This scene was invisible to all but the scattered AIs - a mystery in their own right, since their creator mysteriously fell ill and released them into the code. Regardless, this defense network of "killer programs" as they were first called removed the threat of hackers for nearly thirty years, until the Net was created. This Net was created by a group of the world's best (albeit a bit criminal) programmers the world probably will ever see. For two years they toiled upon a way to "even out the scales" in the virtual world, creating a world for a Runner (Hacker) to place himself into the Net with his programs meant to kill ICE defense protocols. These programs all depended in the individual, often taking the form of legendary dragons or the most notriously nasty ICEbreaker - the Femme Fatal. However, this power comes at a price. G-Modding, a surgical process, is needed to be able to hook into the Net. Often ports are placed in the head for the quickest access to the Net, and fastest reaction time, however some prefer a less obvious mark as a criminal and place ports in arms, legs, or even the torso. However, not all Runners are criminal. Often times Runners are hired to defend corporation's servers, using their ICEbreakers as "Rogues" (The term used for a ICEbreaker meant to kill ICEbreakers). These counter-Runners patrol the Net constantly, searching for the right moment to attack at an enemy runner's weak point. This leads to some cases in which the Runner - on either side - suffers physical damage. More so than if he had failed to shut down an ICE protocol - which was later added to help discourage Netrunning. In most cases, this damage is permanent. Often times it affects the brain, however, more vile corporations have been known to go in for crippling legs, arms, and vital organs of the Runner to further discourage their expeditions into the Net. "Once fancied me a pair of Marshal's pistols back home. When I found the bastard who had them, he shot me right down the leg! The nerve of some people, I tell you. Anyways. After shootin' up my leg, he drags me back here and tells me to have a nice day, twirlin' that pistol all the while." - Ivan Katov Smithson Marshals - while often made fun of as "American loving cowboys" - are still a force to be reckoned with. Each is an arrogant fighter, though their arrogance comes with some truth. Each Marshal has killed dozens of men in contests of dueling and quickdrawing and come out ahead. Often times they never speak, some call them an artist, others say they believe themselves above speaking to those who haven't proven themselves. Truth of the matter is that Marshals simply do not care for anything but their task at hand - each has a single-minded ferocity towards his (or the rare woman) goal, and will often follow it to the end. It was a Smithson Marshal that defended Chandler Peterson himself from an assassination attempt, a Smithson Marshal that captured the royal known as "Number Eight", and a Smithson Marshal that is the face of fear to all criminals in the world. "For home and hearth. For the new era. For the blood of our countrymen!" - Rebellion Rallying Call Ever since the dawn of the new age run by corporations there has been a rebellion. Over the years it has taken many forms, held and lost many leaders, and is known know merely as "The Nine". This refers to the last survivng nobles, among them the ffteen year old heir to the throne - Katherine McNair. While these are certainly not the nobles from the original rebellion, they are in one way or another related, not that there is any real confirmation. Each of the Nine holds a certain task, for example, Number Two is the bodyguard to the Queen (Number One), while Number Eight is the controller of the numerous arms deals the organization uses. "Nine nobles. nine targets." - Smithson motto While everyone in Phylum - at least those not in the rebellion - sniff out rebels or otherwise suspicious activity. However, Smithson has been contracted by Chandler Peterson himself to route the nine nobles, one by one, leaving the Queen last. So far they have succeeded in taking and executing Number Eight, leading to revelation of Number Six through Eight's bank holdings. Smithson claims no casualties have been sustained, however, one Marshal in particular has gone missing - Sarah Everson. Though Smithson attempted to hide the missing Marshal, the rebellion quickly released a video of her execution. This, of course, caused an uproar within the Smithson corporation who are now doubling their efforts to seize the girl and bring her to some "Old fashioned justice". "Europe and Warsaw. What is this? The 1980's?" - Remark made by political comedian James Irvan While certainly Phylum is a shining beacon of hope, the rest of Europe is in shambles by comparison. Their technology only recently has been brought back to the level of the current day and age, for the years of nuclear winter, famine, and harsh conflicts stalled development and served to force it back several years. Through this confusion and conflict, the church was strengthened to the point of Russia being known only as the Holy Russian Empire, and Europe has degenerated into a series of nation-states ruled by lords for lack of a modern term. The two are locked in a cold stare of border conflicts and minor skirmishes, though war has yet to be called for reluctance of the two sides to bring about another nuclear disaster similair to Israel's fate. While as said as being the breadbasket of the world, the Sahel is still a terrible place to inhabit. The military-operated state of Egypt - now expanding over most of Northern Africa - looms over the middle section of the continent in a constant storm cloud. Through treachery and tyranny, however, Phlyum has been able to maintain its hold upon the world's most valuable asset through its corporation instated there - Green Wheat. The rest of Africa - with the exception of South Africa, having always been secretive and controlling - is in shambles. Warlords roam the mid-southern Africa, Egypt is a militant state with a chip on its shoulder, and the Sahel's prospects of ever being free of foreign reign is as impossible now as it seemed so many years ago when the former Britian held it... "No! No Mutties! We won't take untouchables!" - Old corporation's views on mutants in the work-force As the world stood in a never-ending winter, things began to change for the worse through the years of radiation-clogged skies. Mutations spiked by about 40% in the general population, while areas such as Russia saw a 50% spike in mutants. These mutants are not the ones of American comic books, these are those that bring about sickle cell, cancer, and tumors. Those mutations that are more likely to bring about a child's death then they are to bring about a superhuman race.... Though these mutations have subsided to a point of only about 25% of the population, they are still bringing the global life expectancy to only about forty years. For Japan - who had lost 75% of their population in the first year - the life expectancy is only about twenty. As Valhalla attempts to quell the mutation outbreaks among generations, seven more sprout up at an unexpected corner - some never seen before, for radiation still flows through the air as much as oxygen does... "Israel. I knew it well. The center of the Old World's conflicts. The center of death in the name of God. Whatever God this was, I doubt he'd bring this about to his own people." Israel was never meant to survive without America acting as its stalwart defender. As soon as the bombs struck, every nation that had kept its hatred of Israel fired its own nuclear weapons to obliterate the religious state from exsistence. This further contributed to the fall of Europe as it led to more nuclear waste polluting the air, though it was this nuclear catastrophe that killed 50% of the population of Europe in the first wave of winter. It was said that the skies rained ash for years afterwards, though who can say how many of those ashes were the remains of what had once been humans... -- "Fossil fuels? Your car still runs on that?" - Said once to Marshal John Lawe on his self-made means of transportation While certainly there is no more oil-based fuel left to the world - for most of the reserves were either used up or made unaccesible by radiation - there is still the idea of an automobile. As several different methods of making a recognizable fuel source to the public were attempted, one by one they were deemed impractical until only two options remained: electrical power or cold fusion. The latter of which being near impossible, the choice to adopt an electrical basis of fuel was adopted and is still widely used today thanks to Iceland's contribution as a power base for nearly the entire remaining population. Most of this geothermal power, however, heads straight into Phylum - the big gaping hole in resources it is - and very little reaches the "lower bidders" known as Europe, Russia, and Africa. This power-source "paradise" that Iceland is serves only as a public image, for in reality it is a cold debtor's prison for the high and mighty to gain a little bit of free power off of, which is stored then transported to Phylum as massive power tanks, or simply "big batteries". The rest of Europe and Africa hardly has the resources to afford such high-end power, and so they are forced to use solar and other means of energy storage and usage by the means of ineffective power lines running throughout these continents. run.exe.ICEbreaker.killer.Femme_Fatale "Let's do this...." Running is a rather tricky idea for most to grasp. Reality is what a programmer has made it, which may not follow the rules of the real world. Perhaps gravity is very low or not present at all, perhaps the world is like ours, perhaps it is fuedel Japan with warriors ten feet tall guarding its servers - servers which may take on a myriad of forms all based off the ideals of the programmers. Programs - while only having a rigid "dumb" AI as their interface and appearance - only truly materialize in such worlds, some of these programs are mighty beings such as Drakes while others may be massive floating swords controlled by the flick of the Runner's wrist. More often than not these programs are self-made, though a few unofficial ICEbreaker markets do exist with "vanilla" programs or simply blank slates on which to create said programs. ICE - Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics, officially - was a new way of thinking and ultimately rewrote the rules of hacking for two decades until the hackers found a way to deal with this new found programming. ICE is completley subjective to the programmer, and depending on the strength of the computer, can begin to tear at the Runner's own interpretation of the Net and thus cause him to become confused or disoriented as a battle of will versus machine takes place. As this struggle takes place, the ICE programs - which are still nothing but code - can take down the Runner while he is down. This cannot be stressed enough. While they are now physical representations of code, they are still code. A Static Wall is indeed a wall of static, but it is still just numbers and letters on a code line. Legendary hacker. The greatest legend of the Runner world. He whose teachings have been left to the world as a reminder that those in power will always be humbled, g00ru once stood a powerful icon as one of the few Japanese Runners to escape Japan despite its radiation issues. Once in Phylum, g00ru began his career as a Runner in the slums of one of Phylum's poorer districts stealing from local stores and the occasional retail chains. Once he raised enough credits, he began to purchase programs of more power to begin the real work. However, time was running short, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer when he was only twenty, and had vowed to go out "with a bang". Over the next five years, he had attained his own personal view of the Net - Fuedel Japan - and with an ICE protocl classified "Strength Five" - which he viewed as a Katana. It was not the cancer that had ended g00ru's life, but a Run gone horribly wrong, the Computer had regained control and locked the server, leaving his mind locked in the confinds of the Net forever while the body died along with his mind but three days later. Such is the fate of those who dabble in ICE.... To use a modern-day equivelent, Running is similair to the way Inception worked. The "dreamer" in this case is the server one wishes to hack, while the architect is the Runner himself. This is only to go so far, however. While each may view the world differently, as stated before, it is a constant battle for control over the image. Perhaps when you feel your strongest dashing forth on a horse with a lance, skewering all those before you, the Net changes and you are know on a horse with a lance and your adversaries, instead of being armed peasants, are now modern-day soldiers armed with guns. Though now the question presents itself: where can one make a Run? Part of the G-Mod procedure involves attaching ports able of harnassing the brain's electrical current to access servers; anywhere these ports fit is a place where a Run can be made. This does not state that corporations allow for a Runner to access devices, rather it is that these ports were already there, and the Runner's wires match these ports. However, each port only yields so much. The module to a door is very unlikely to hold agendas and bank accounts, whereas the internal server - most likely the most well defended - will contain such information. That is to say, no one port gives full access, sometimes you "must dig deeper" - g00ru.