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Intro History Organizations Runners Fixers and Suppliers
The United States government effectively ceased to hold absolute power within its own borders in March of 1981 after President Ronald Reagan was fatally shot by John Hinkley, Jr. in a random act of insane obsession with the actress Jodie Foster caused by a strange fixation on the movie Taxi Driver, though it would take 11 years of flailing and collapse before the Union was officially sundered. And who could have forseen such a bizarre twist of fate? That a movie, a form of popular entertainment, nothing more than one more scion of increasingly mediocre mass media could have so much influence on the tapestry of history as to shatter the most powerful nation the world had ever seen?
Years later Hinkley would be among the first diagnosed as having EIO, a form of psychosis caused by Extreme Information Overload; exposure to too much sensory input via mass media, an ever growing problem in a world increasingly beset by overwhelming streams of information that converge into a veritible flood of unnatural stimuli. But by then people had much bigger concerns than "why Hinkley did it".
The US was in shambles. Coming off the unpopular Carter administration plus long years of frustration and decline before that from the unrest of the 60's and 70's and the Vietnam War era, and beset from within by massive society-altering technological strides the Pax Americana that had kept the "Sleeping Giant" nation snoozing for so long destabilized and finally failed after the death of the charismatic leader so many had staked their hopes upon. In the aftermath the nascent Bush administration was unable to restore balance, and it wasnt long before the power of the US Government no longer spread from sea to shining sea. The nation tore itself apart in a slow decline into anarchy from 1981 to 1992.
As government declined, organizations exerted ever increasing influence on their employees, their familys, and the environs around their power bases. Soon the map of "American" power more closely resembled the era of the "Robber Barons" of the 1880s and 90s than anything recognizable to a modern American.
Finally the Pacific American Federation of Free Cities (PacFed) secceeded from the Union in 1992, like a chunk breaking from an iceberg with a resounding CRACK. And just like that, the once glorious US of A, she of storied star and fabled stripe, was no more as regional alliances were formed and added their names to the list of secession over the next year.
And as America fell the world shook, shockwaves of power rolling out, and then an implosion as foreign powers were sucked in to fill the sudden void. Japan, already strong in the Pacific rim, became a major presense in the PacFed. German companies established heavy footholds in the New Colonial Union (NCU), and Russia annexed most of Alaska faster than you could say Zdravstvuite. Without US funding and strong arming the UN became a completley toothless entity, and though it never officially disbanded it ceased to have any relevance and faded to a handful of squabling nations sprinkled with some well meaning people.
Of course it was assumed that the Soviets would swell to dominance without American opposition, but quite the opposite was true; deprived of the Great Enemy to bogeyman factions into line the internal inequities and strife that had plagued the Soviet Union since the October Revolution 80 years before saw the Iron Curtain crumble from within as the Central Committee fractured and member states melted away.
By 1992 the world was a very different place than it had been just a decade previously. But with the fall of world powers, smaller nations vied for power with themselves and also the growing might of swelling Mega Corporations, huge conglomerates with sufficient wealth and clout to effectively be sovereign entities.
Of the old nations Japan and Germany, ironically, were the strongest. Canada absorbed parts of Alaska and some adjoining US states, particularly in the great lakes fringe, and renewed old alliances with England and Australia as the Commonwealth was reinvigorated, but as more of a true triumvirate than the old London dominated hegemony.
Several US successor states held on to power as well, though greatly reduced from the previous American dominance. The PacFed collection of Free States arose as a commercial power, while the old New England states comprising the NCU leveraged their control of Boston and their new capital of NYC to maintain some solvency, and many an old truck bore what proved to be prophetic bumper stickers as the South rose again. The New Confederacy with Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and all the states south of Maryland and Pennsylvania emerged as a viable nation. Despite the term "Confederacy", slavery was not reinstituited; life continued much as it had under the old red white & blue, but the New Confederacy was definitely arch-conservative and self-righteous..
The world spanning and ongoing socio-political-commercial power struggle, the general sense of upheaval in people's everyday lives, and the changes in the basic quality of life for people all over the globe was so great that no one really noticed in 1989 when European science juggernaut CERN announced in a typically off handed fashion that pursuant to some project or other a contractor working for them created a shared consciousness virtual reality technology which they were unofficially calling Neuralized EnquiryTechnology, or NET for short.
It was only a couple years later when the bugs had been smoothed out that this new technology, mentioned as an afterthought to some other "real" project, grew to consume the world at a rate that defied prediction or convention, spreading from one techie to another across all boundaries of human society. Turns out there was a slight misspelling in that well trod nostrum of yore; the geek would inherit the Earth, and the NET would be the vehicle by which they did so.
The incredible efficiencies and advantages inherent to the NET ensured that cutting edge companies would embrace it, and many new companies (both viable and not so) sprang up around it. By 1992 as the USA was in its deaththrows, the NET was the single most significant new idea in business. With the expansion of the NET into commercial venture there came vast growth in infotech, and with infotech came new forms of espionage, and with new forms of espionage came new forms of security, and with security inevitably came violence.
Without strong central governments to step in and legislate, mediate, or adjudicate a storm of corporate espionage, sabotage, and infighting gripped companies everywhere in an escalating cycle that eventually became marked by violence in many areas of the world. Things rose to a head in 1998 and numerous corporations suffered huge damages from the internecine struggle; many collapsed or were consumed by corporate raiders including the beleaguered old giant Bell Telephone & Telegraph.
An uneasy truce set in as winter claimed the millennia, while CEOs and BoDs collectively drew their breath, licked their wounds, and considered their options. The peace didnt last of course; it was only a matter of time. In 2001 rumors which had been floating around the NET and news services about teams of mercenaries being employeed by corporations to conduct covert missions on their behalf were proven to be true when "Daring" Darius Lee was skyrocketed to fame thanks to an ambitious journalist who documented the aftermath of his raid on a Bio-Corps facility outside of Seatac (Greater Seattle-Tacoma).
Though not the first or even the most accomplished of the early"Runners" (as the nascent new career came to be known), "Daring" Lee was the first to be covered by mass media and thus was the basis for what people the world over thought a "Runner" was supposed to be like. This would have quite an effect on the nature of the business for decades to come.
Darius had suffered severe injuries during the Corporate Wars of the late 90's and had received numerous cybernetic replacements to sustain his life. Not one to be dettered, he learned to use his cybernetics as a boon in his line of work and pressed on. However, though he was actually very unusual for his cybernetics, due to his recognition factor a new wave of would be Runners sought to emulate him and had themselves upgraded with elective cybernetics and other forms of bio enhancement.
Over the next decade and a half the world more or less settled into a routine as matters took their course and a sort of parity or balance was found among nations and Mega Corps. Then a new turn of events was introduced; by 2009 advances in genetics and a world culture infected with the idea of improvement through science ensured that genetically tweaked invirto births were, while not common, within reach of the successful and wealthy. Some Mega Corps even offered such services as benefits to certain strata of employees. Eugenics was alive and well in the Brave New Millennia.
However by 2019 it was becoming clear that some of the original crops of genetically enhanced children then passing through puberty were more than just extra healthy and extra smart and extra whatever; some of them evinced remarkable metahuman abilities. Though rare such individuals demanded special investigation and consideration by their very nature and vast resources were expended by Mega Corps with an interest in genetic research to discover exactly how the metahumans came to be.
A little past a decade later scientists the world over still have not been able to determine exactly what causes such metahumans, but some new ones crop up every year among the ranks of genetically enhanced young men and women. Many go on to have prosaic careers of some sort or another, and most have abilities that while remarkable ore not applicable to combat or espionage. But a few metahumans use their natural abilities in a field where that sort of natural advantage can make for an effective earner; i.e. some metahumans seek lucrative careers as Runners, giving cybered out street ronin and well trained norms a run for their money.
The year is 2037; the millennia is 1/3 past and the world is a dangerous place, but an exciting one. There are great inequities and the weak and unfortunate are shown little mercy, but the strong and the daring can rise to great wealth and even real power. If they can survive....and that's a BIG if.....