The Crushing Depths

History up to the end of 2009 is the same as we know it.  Notable exceptions being the birth of Sal (TJ’s) in 1986, the birth of Vanessa (Steve’s) in 1995, and the birth of Leo (Mine) in 2003.  In 2012, a viable nuclear fusion reactor is completed in California, with others promptly springing up around the world.  This alleviates both power needs and freshwater needs, by providing the power needed to desalinize seawater.  In 2012 Russ (Matt’s) is born.  In 2014, super-efficient solar panels are developed, and more are launched into space the following year.  Breakthroughs in super-conductors prompt the United States to improve its energy grid, and by 2015 the country is completely energy independent.  The decade from 2012 to 2022 is widely regarded in current society as a golden age, not just in the US, but around much of the world.  As peace and prosperity come to dominate, even on a crowded earth, the prevailing wisdom is that humanity had gotten over a hump, or passed a test, and that a new age is dawning.  The new reliance on far cleaner and cheaper energy sources has a wide variety of impacts.  Conflicts around the world dry up, as in many cases the underlying causes are access to resources.  Computer technology advances rapidly in the ten years, along with transportation infrastructure.  Gasoline as a source of fuel becomes prohibitively expensive, though this is based primarily on extremely high tax rates.  Nobody but gearheads really want to drive the old cars anyway, since even compared to current prices of gasoline, the electric is far cheaper.  The drive to create reliable electric cars creates a mini- economic boom, but the real advances in transportation come in the form of mass transit.  High speed electric rail connects most of the country, and even small communities have electric shuttle service.


2016 sees a joint mission by many of the countries involved in the ISS, with the addition of China and others, to establish a permanent base and subsequent colony on the moon.  By 2020, there is sufficient framework, including a small civilian community, to launch a preparatory automated mission to Mars, with the intention of beginning possible long-term terraforming for eventual human colonization.  This mission occurs in two phases.  The first is a mission which lands on Mars, performs research and sends data back to earth, and returns to earth with samples for further research.  The second sends a great deal of automated equipment to Mars to begin the terraforming process.  It is believed that terraforming will occur slowly at first, but in the course of a few hundred years, Mars might have sufficient resources and atmosphere to support a limited amount human life.


In 2022, the rice virus strikes in Asia, knocking out almost the entire rice harvest through Japan, China, Oceania and India.  Many believe the virus to be an alien micro-organism brought back from the first mission to Mars, which later escaped into the wild.  A year after, in 2023, the rice virus completes a trip around the world, despite researchers working furiously for a solution.  Months after the acknowledgement that the rice virus had spread across the globe, the corn virus strikes, beginning in the bread basket of the United States, and spreading even faster than the rice virus before it.  By 2024, chaos has engulfed most of Asia and the Pacific, and panic is setting in for the rest of the world, despite ample food reserves in many so-called ‘first-world’ nations.  Another year, and a strange world war has begun.  Research into defeating the viruses, such as it was, largely halts in the public sphere as chaos spreads.  There are really no national sides, and only ethereal alliances.  The world went from a golden age apex a mere two years before to the lowest of the low.  By 2028, much of the damage was done, and the world settled down a great deal from the previous couple years.  Mass starvation and the intensely bloody conflicts had reduced the world’s population down to levels not seen since the 1st century CE (about 200 million people, this means that something like 7.5 billion people died in about five years.  This was 97% of the world’s total population.  By comparison, 60 million people died in World War II).  By 2030, with a significantly reduced population, resources are again flowing, and humanity is on the upswing again.  Or so we’d like to believe.  Our story begins on July 5th, 2031, in New York City.


The current population hovers around half a billion people, roughly equivalent to the 12th century CE.  Cities are eerily empty, though well maintained, due to automated upkeep services.  However, in large cities, emergency services are stretched very thin, owing to the proportionately small amount of people they have to service a large area.  Cities are also far greener during this time than at any time in the past.  Excess space and a deep concern for food supplies spurs the vast majority of people to grow their own crops, even in the city.  In fact, many buildings in large cities such as New York City have been purposely demolished to bring open growing space into the city. Even where the buildings remain, many people use rooftops or hydroponics to grow their own. During the time of the crisis, most people armed themselves, whether to defend their meager resources or to try and capture some.  This has continued to the present day, with many, if not most, people continuing to openly carry weapons.  Heavy weapons and true machine guns are still rarely seen in civilian hands, but it would be possible to obtain a permit for such weapons if one could show need. Ballistic weapons powered by chemical explosions are still the norm, but the truly wealthy or well-connected may find they have other options.


Computer technology is again on the march, after a hiatus during the crisis.  Computers are generally cheap and ubiquitous, and most home computers possess greater computational power than the human brain.  Cell phones, PDAs, smart phones, etc have been replaced by a device shaped like a Q, and worn over the ear like an over-sized hearing aid.  This device is generally called an “iQ” (eye cue) or sometimes a Qi (key). There are different models, but in general this device functions as a combination between a cell phone and a laptop.  These devices house pretty much a person’s entire life. It functions as all of your entry keys (car, house, business, work, etc), as well as communication device, personal entertainment device, wallet/ID/money exchange device, and computer. A built in projector can display images, video, etc.  Many people carry with them a small white card which they can hold and project images on, but almost any blank surface will do.  Higher end models can be modified to project onto glasses.  In addition, some people have had surgery to permanently implant the device, and give it the capability to directly tap into their optic nerve.  This option carries both advantages and disadvantages, obviously, but it is the buzz right now.


Most data transfer is done digitally, simply over the massive wireless network in place basically everywhere.  However, small solid state data cubes handle transfer of data wished to be kept off of the network.  Pretty much every electronic device, and other devices as well, have the ability to be accessed over a wireless connection, such that management of one’s home and possessions can be done while sitting on a park bench 1000 miles away.  Public transit in and around New York City allows you to effectively get around without having a vehicle. The subway system is decommissioned, but the major public transit option is the bus system. The system is entirely automated, and does not include actual routes. One catches a bus by heading to an intersection, and using an iQ to input a desired destination into a device at the corner. The smart bus system adds you and your destination to the system, and the routes of buses adjusts optimally to pick you up and drop you at your destination with a minimum amount of time, though it can obviously vary. Development of artificial intelligence or research to that end is expressly outlawed by an international treaty, but rumors of clandestine AI facilities abound.  Medical technology has advanced to the point where most people live to the age of 125-140.  Many genetic diseases have been completely eradicated.  Nanotechnology is used on a daily basis, especially in the medical field, but no nanite builders capable of replication exist publicly.  After the crisis, emerging powers realized that contact with the moon colony had been cut off and tried to reestablish communication.  Hearing nothing, a mission was launched to the moon, and found all 2300 members of the colony dead and rotting, though they would have been self-sufficient for decades without aid from earth.  The investigation of events on the moon is highly classified, and the status of the colony is unknown.


Politically speaking, North America is a single entity (including Central America to Panama), along with Europe, and Russia.  These three are closely allied.  South America is struggling to unite, but is fairly stable.  They receive much aid from the first three powers.  Africa is mostly reclaimed by wilderness.  The notable exceptions to this being population centers in Egypt, South Africa, and Morocco.  Australia and New Zealand are also largely devoid of human life.  The Middle East is one entity from Turkey and Egypt in the west, to Iran in the east.  Everything from Iran east to Japan and south to Oceania is still a raging conflict zone.  Warlords control their own territories with the force of arms, food is still scarce, limited to what people can grow on their own, hidden.  No aid goes in, the powers choosing to wait for the region to settle down, and the political situation to more clearly resolve itself.  Some human rights groups go in, claiming atrocities that cannot wait.  It is rumored that part of the delay is a disagreement between Russia (Now the USR), and the EU about who best to support for unification in the region.


With the population of the world so drastically reduced, many “things that go bump in the night” which normally stay hidden have begun to be bolder.  Creatures thought to be myths have come out of the woodwork to seize what they see as an opportunity to try and tip the scales in their favor.  Humans in the know realize that the so-called “Crisis” of 10 years ago was merely a catalyst.  The real crisis is now, as humanity tried to find its feet again.  Some groups of baddies may be out to   inherit the whole world and eliminate humans, some are simply out to carve a niche for themselves, and others might simply be in it to enslave humanity for various reasons.  Non-humans may be outright evil, though many just have goals that do not mesh with human survival or continued existence as free people.  Others just want to exist on their own, but run afoul of humans for their appearance or properties.  Some few humans know, and fight, but most either don’t realize it is happening or simply laugh the stories off.


Our Characters:


Matt:  Russet “Russ” Barrow was born in 2012, and is 19 years old when the story opens.  He’s currently enrolled in college in New York City at Columbia.  He is skilled in the outdoors, and grew up farming potatoes during the crisis.  As such, he knows well how to defend himself.  He is a thrill-seeker, and has the scars to prove it.

TJ:  Salvestro “Sal” Giangaleazzo was born in 1986, and is 45 years old when the story opens.  Despite his age (which is still at least twenty years shy of middle-aged), he is in excellent physical condition.  A family man, Sal babies his 23 year old daughter, and lives to support her.  He lives a subsistence lifestyle just outside of New York City, but comes into the city often.  A former Wall Street trader, he lost ten years of his life to an opium den in Thailand, and came back to the United States just in time for the crisis. His wife was killed in the violence.  Sal has a dark side, which could come to the fore if something were to happen to his daughter.

Steve: Vanessa “Nessie” Fairaday was born in 1995, and is 36 years old when the story opens.  She is the linchpin of the group, both physically, through her bookstore/coffee shop, Crop Squares, and mentally, with her openly claimed psychic abilities, and her attractive, leading personality.  She’s physically attractive at 36, and jogs.  She is also obsessed with conspiracy theories, and spends a great deal of time researching.

Paul:  Leonid “Leo” Rybkin was born in 2003 in Russia, and is 28 years old when the story opens.  He is a very small man, standing at 5’2″, and 130 pounds.  He came with his family to the United States in 2013, and speaks with a heavy Russian accent [which I will NOT be rping].  He is an extremely pleasant man, having a ready smile for almost everyone.  He’s inclined to believe the best about people, which can make him seem naive.  He was a police officer turned enforcer during the crisis, and he refuses to talk about that time of his life.  He hates violence, and will only turn to it as an absolute last resort.

Together:  These four are nearly inseparable friends.  Leo, Vanessa, and Sal have all been friends since 2021.  Leo and Vanessa met at her bookstore, after Leo turned 18 and went on his own.  He also has a great deal of interest in conspiracy theories, though is not quite as fervent as Vanessa.  Part of the reason he stayed was an initial crush on Vanessa, but this has matured into a healthy friendship.  Sal was told to check out the store for answers about his own experiences, and left with more questions and a couple of new friends.  They helped each other survive the crisis, and helped support Sal when his wife died in 2025.  Russ met the group on a failed date with Isabella (Sal’s daughter) in late 2030, which Sal insisted take place at Vanessa’s “coffee house”.  Much to Isabella’s chagrin, and Sal’s relief, Russ was more attracted to Vanessa on that initial date than Izi.  He instantly hit it off with the rest of the group, and they have been inseparable since.  The bookstore serves as their typical hangout, and they are most often there when not working or sleeping.  Vanessa and Leo live in the two apartments above the store, and it is not far from the City College of NY where Russ attends school.  Sal lives outside NYC proper, but he’s often found crashing in a guest room somewhere if it’s not growing season.  The four are all minorly psionic/psychic (i will be using the terms interchangeably), and this enhances and strengthens their bond, even if they don’t know about it.