Freely adapthed from Syndicate Scorpio world by Ville Vuorela
A world where gigantic cities which extend from coast to coast consisting mainly of slums and ruined houses, whereas some isolated islands, downtown areas with gleaming scyscrapers reach for the skies.
A world of high technology, where most people have to eat whatever they can find from garbage bins. They have never driven a car or flown in a plane, nor seen any implanted technology.
A world where information is the only real power, and the value of people is determined by their skills and political power.
A world, where most unemployed people have sold their rights vote to corporations, and now they live in corporate suburbs with nothing else to do but to watch TV or virtual tapes.
It is 204th decade. It is the world of Syndicate.
Earth is still recognisable from space, although the planetary cloud cover has increased yearly since the 1970ies and the coastlines can be slightly different because of the rising sea level. Global warming is not only melting the polar icecaps, it is also increasing the overall moisture and energy in the atmosphere, meaning there are more storms and tornadoes every year. The abnormally rapid rise in sea level is caused by parts of the Antarctic icecaps breaking away from the continental glacier and replacing water for millions of cubic kilometres. Like adding ice cubes into a drink.
In Europe, as a counter-action to increasing corporate power, the European Union is now like a new United States, being perhaps now the worlds most powerful country. Its main city is Europoli, an immense everlasting city expanding from English Channel to Berlin and beyond. The other major city is Istanbul, which is a main gateway to Middle East and Africa.
In Northern America, United States and Canada still exists, but they have very strongly fallen under corporate power, and so the USA is no longer a strong player in world politics, with the power divided among several multinational corporations.
In Third World, most Southern American and African countries are controlled by military juntas or generals loyal to some specific corporation. Occasionally, they are at war with each other. Most areas in southern hemispehere are polluted or wasted in countless wars, and the people living there are mutated, starving and desperate. New wars break out daily, and illegal weapons are used regularly.
In other countries, democracy is still the official type of government - in theory. While the people leading the countries are elected in fair elections, the votes are not from the people, but from the corporations, which have bought the rights to use their votes in exchange for free lodging, food and entertainment. Such corporate 'slaves' live in gigantic corporate suburbs, corporate city blocks, eat corporate food and watch corporate channels. They do absolutely nothing, their life is boring and uneventful, but at least they are alive.
There are still some countries, which have had no need to give corporations rights to buy votes or have their representatives in government, but such countries are rare. Even in Europen Union there is corporate participitants in government.
Most of Europe, including Eastern Europe and the protectorates of Balkan are under the federal government of the European Union (EU), centred in Brussels. The original (pre-2000) member countries still retain their national parliaments and the relationship between the central and local administration would be problematic if it weren't for the fact that neither have enough real power to cause trouble. Financially the heart of Europe is Europolis, a chain of large urban areas extending from London to Warsaw. Anarchy increases as we move to the east. Western Russia has splintered into autonomous regions, often under military dictatorship of the local army. The largest these regions extends from Novgorod to Kola Peninsula has St. Petersburg as its capital. Other notable autonomous regions are around Moscow and Kiev, separated by wide stretches of anarchy where bandits, local militias and separatists are at each other's throats. To the south Turkey has largely suffered the same fate, except for a gigantic den of legalised vices and loose morals known as the Free City of Istanbul. Consequently it has become a popular tourist resort for the eurocitizens.
Can puppets have puppets of their own? Apparently so. The surviving African countries do so only because they placed themselves under the not-so-benevolent protection of some frst world power, typically USA, EU or ASEA. The local administration is protected by foreign troops from the across the seas and pay for this protection dearly by giving the foreigners, or the megacorps affiliated with them unlimited rights to exploit local natural resources. Opponents to this arrangement blame the 21st century superpowers of ushering a new era of colonialism. Proponents point to the chaos of tribes and warlords that dominates the rest of the continent. It is rumoured that megacorps are secretly prolonging the conflict to stop any of the leaders from becoming a focus of African nationalism and thus threat to the megacorp holdings there.
Compared to the rest of the non-sponsored world, Middle East is actually fairly stable. The regional governments were totalitarian to begin with and the primary oil countries, especially Saudi-Arabia, have been under unofficial foreign protection since the 1950s. The oil is running out, however, and together with it the foreign aid and investments to the region, except for certain coastal cities acting as collecting points for the oil coming from underwater rigs in the bottom of the Indian Ocean. USA has much influence in this region despite being the primary enemy of many local Rebel Front members. It has provoked its local allies into clashes with EU forces in Egypt in an effort to keep EU away from the coast of the Indian Ocean. The only sore spot is Israel, where a civil war between the conservatives and moderates ended in 2029 and lead to an exodus of moderate refugees into EU and the Free City of Istanbul. Diminished population is unable to control the regions they used to and have now retreated to Tell Aviv and surrounding hills. They still have a strong military base near Jerusalem and occupy portions of Jerusalem and are likely to hold on to them also in the future as the Arab dissidents fear the Israeli nuclear arsenal.
ASEA is a loose a mercantile federation of Japan, United Korea and various other countries. Since the civil war between two different communist factions and the Chinese military began in 2021, many of the huge and modern cities of South China, like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao declared themselves autonomous under the leadership of local Rebel Front members. After a series of palace coups these were replaced with megacorp puppets and the cities joined ASEA as well. Since then ASEA troops have occupied much of the Chinese coast, while civil war continues in the inner regions, with Maoists retreating north towards Mongolia. Much of the Indonesian Archipelago is in chaos with religious and tribal factions carving each other up, but ASEA and the megacorps have occupied several key positions and natural resources, especially oil fields and underwater mineral deposits. The three capitals of the region are Hong Kong, Tokyo Bay City and Singapore.
India, where standard of living has always been low is relatively unchanged, with only the largest northern cities benefiting from new technology. Sea levels and extreme weathers have created several famines in South India, driving perhaps a hundred million refugees into slums around Delhi and Calcutta. Further to the west Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in chaos as the religious fanatics and moderates of various Islamic movements struggle for power, with all factions receiving support from competiong superpowers and megacorps. This is the only conflict in the 21st century where NBC weapons have seen widespread use. Neighbouring countries are near hysterical with the idea of biological fallout from the region. To the north is the Central Siberian League, a collection of autonomous regions, mainly huge soviet-era industrial cities that broke off from the fragmenting Russia, enlisted the support of the local military and occupied several key natural resources in the rest of Siberia. They are perhaps the only region of ex-Russia whose lot has improved over the years. The rest of Siberia is without government, but the population density is too low for that to have any noticeable effect. The three most important cities are Novosibirsk, Krasnojarsk and finally, at the end of the vital transport system, Vladivostok.
United States of America remains a superpower, although it was a megacorp puppet long before the Dark Era began. Without the support of the strong and independent US military, the Washington government would have collapsed years ago. Today US focuses on its two coasts, while inland regions are noticeably underdeveloped and suffer greatly from the worsening weather conditions. Freed from the political control of Washington, the US Army has occupied much of Canada and its natural resources at and beyond the Arctic Circle. It is not in position to exploit them, but possessions alone give it more weight when dealing the megacorps. The few attempts to oust them by Canadian forces were easily repulsed, but local militias still try to fight a guerrilla campaign against the invaders. Canada would have probably called EU for help, but has been told not to by the megacorps, who threaten to support separatists in Quebec if they do. Still, EU forces stationed in Greenland have made unofficial sorties into North Canada and are training and supplying the local guerrillas.
Most of Latin America is in political and financial turmoil and the effects of climate change have had tremendous impact because of the primitive farming methods. Megacorp troops have occupied much of the Caribbean coast, but elsewhere power rests in the hands of landowners and their mercenary armies. Much of the region is badly underdeveloped and even 20th century technology is hard to come by. The notable exceptions are the megacorp bases in the north, the Free City of Rio De Janeiro and finally Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, the sole remaining country on the continent and the collecting point for several undersea mines and oil rigs.
When reading about the technological developments of the 21st century it is also important to remember that these high-tech gadgets are available only to those who can afford them and live in a relatively modern culture where they can be used and maintained. There are several manned space stations in the Earth orbit and neural-net processors are showing the first signs of Artificial Intelligence, but there is no sign of that in the poorest Africa or South India. Even when advanced technology is available, it costs and all but the most basic gadgets are beyond the reach of ordinary people.
High technology is expensive, and only a small minority has enough money to buy even a modern PDA. Most people are limited to goods quite similar to the late 20th century, made of some synthetic material. There are rumors about full cyborgs and such things, but they are just rumors - at least for the 99% majority of the population.
The most visible new technology is the widespread use of VTOL-craft. Besides short-tailed double-rotor helicopters and airplanes with turning rotors or jets, there is the skycar (first commercial model appeared back in 2001), basically a passenger craft with four seats and a series of horisontal and vertical turbofans in the chassis. The price tag comes close to that of a limousine. Hydrocarbon-fuel models achieve speeds up to 450kph and have approximately 8 hours of flight time per refuel. The newer electric models go up to 300kph and have an average flight time of 3 hours per reload. Long-range traffic is done with maglev-trains (average speed 500 kph) or supersonic passenger jets (mach 2 at 20,000 metres, who cares about the remnants of the ozone layer). Compared to the 20th century, modern military aircraft rely on stealth instead of dogfighting performance, and rarely carry other weapons than passive-sensor missiles.
For autopilots, HUD-displays and constant communication with the city traffic control are basic functions for any car, but most importantly only 20% of car owners drive it themselves. Many companies offer RoboCar services where the car acts as a private taxi driven by the company computer using information provided by the city's traffic control. The owner hops in, tells the car where he wants to go and the car takes him there. The rich tend to have human chaffeurs for the sake of status. Military ground vehicles are often hovercrafts or WIGs (wing-in-ground) vehicles, sacrificing some armour for near-aircraft speed and mobility in all but the most difficult terrain types and can also travel on water. All vehicles accept a variety of hydrocarbon fuels and even if oil were to run out completely, synthetic hydrocarbons keep the traffic going for a while, although fuel costs will be higher.
Widespread use of underwater oil rigs, mines and processing stations built on the sea floor (unmanned facilities can be as deep as 5000 metres, the maximum depth for manned facilities is 2000 metres) has lead to marked advances in underwater transportation. Nuclear subs can be built just as huge as supertankers and they actually go faster than most surface ships. Since the contours of the sea floor and vulcanic activity make long oceanic pipelines impractical, huge cargo submarines are used to carry oil and ores between seafloor and surface facilities. Many of them are completely automated and have no crew. Military submarines are usually manned to ensure effective response to unexpected situations, but even they act only as a base and transport for smaller robotic attack craft, essentially highly agile computer-guided torpedo and missile platforms.
Old-style farming, especially that of rice, continues all over the globe but a large part of the crops fails because of turbulent weather and plant diseases. Developed regions have turned away from traditional agriculture and much of the foodstuffs consumed in modern cities comes from algae, soy, bacteorological farming and artificial photosynthesis. Fibres and nutrients are then combined to form a nutritious base that looks and tastes like dog food. For extra cost it can be restructured and flavoured to pass for real food, especially since most of the urban clientele have never tasted the original stuff.
Seaweed is everywhere. When you eat pizza, you eat seaweed. When you eat kebab, or tacos, or whatever, you eat seaweed. Unless you are very rich. Seaweed is available from all seas, and processing and manufacturing it have become one of the most important industries. Seaweed is the secret behind a population of billions surviving in a polluted planet. Processing is so efficient nowadays, that you do not know that you are eating the seaweed, unless you are told.
And seaweed is not limited to food; it can also be refined into
countless other products, used as a main component in plastic, for example.
No wonder that seaweed is one of the main strategic resources
Virtual Reality and Wetware
With enhanced data storage and manipulation systems it is now possible
to explore almost-real virtual reality. Virtual reality is used for
training and entertainment, but it is not very fast with interactive
systems. Computers and information can be handled with it, and so does
many everyday workers, but the real data is still in zeroes and ones
in computer memory, so the fastest and most powerful way to handle
data is still the old fashioned "command line".
Virtual reality, however, has many uses in training and entertainment,
but it is not normally all-senses experience. No, it is basicly
all-vision display and earphones, with view-to-focus and possible
It is, however, possible to get complete feed into brain, including all senses and feelings. This is still quite inaccurate, and is mainly limited to generic feelings like unclassified fear, anger, hate, love or attraction. For senses like sight or hearing the direct feed would be more like white noise, low rumble, big pink thing or so, and thus usually normal display and earphone systems are used for those.
Recordings with all senses and feelings are called wetware, and they are recorded and playbacked with special equipment. Such a recording and equipment is very dangerous because wetware recordings can have programs possible (in bad case) putting brain into comatose state or burying special triggers into mind. Thus, wetware is illegal in most countries. Do not fuck with your brains.
However, wetware gives you the Ultimate Experience and it is like a drug for many people. The main problem with impulses to brains and cortex is mainly the crane, which is thick and blocks signals very effectually. Thus those seeking for even more powerful experiences can get a brain implant for receiving these impulses more effectually.
GlobalNet was founded upon the remains of the Internet, when the bandwidth and overall services of the Internet structure became inadequate for the ever growing datastreams. Now, the GlobalNet broadcasts billions of bytes of information bytes around the world each nanosecond, spreading the corporate propaganda, ads and news. But is is not a highway to fortune, because corporate systems are usually separated from the outside world very carefully, and no external connections are usually possible. With suitable equipment, all information moving in datalines can be eavesdropped.
So, if one needs to break into a corporate system to monitor, edit or otherwise manipulate data therein, he must find a cable containing that actual data, tap into it and then process onward. Breaking in from the outside is very, very difficult and requires some bug successfully slipped into security systems, passwords, sheer luck and time.
Although G-Net can be accessed also with VR-goggles and gloves, G-Net is NOT the cyberspace envisioned by late 20th century science fiction authors. It is a highly sophisticated multipurpose computer/communications network.
Although man has walked on Mars, and the moon has permanent space stations, space is still largely unexplored area, mainly because of the cost to reach it. Space travelling is mainly used for scientific research and other secondary projects, and corporations are much more interested in oceans, which offer nearly unlimited resources if used wisely. The space is crowded by hundreds of thousands of satellites, from corporate spy satellites to scientific mappers.
Supersonic scramjet shuttles can reach LEO (Low Earth Orbit), dock with a space station or a spacecraft, and then return to the atmosphere. This is how delicate cargo and humans are transported into space. The more crude items such as new space station modules or raw materials to be processed in orbital factories (zero-G composites have revolutionised material industry) are sent up with laser lifters. This is a small rocket with a reaction chamber full of ice. A powerful laser is fired into the reaction chamber, vaporizing the ice which then erupts out of the reaction chamber acting as a reaction mass. Acceleration is tremendous and payloads are large. The rocket takes the cargo into Low Earth Orbit where it is met by an orbital transfer vehicle. The cargo module is detached and another one carrying finished product from the orbital factory is attached. Upon receiving a signal from ground control the OTV sends the rocket back to Earth and it lands usually within 5 kilometres of its designated target point, thanks to a computer controlled parachute. Bases specialising in laser lifting and receiving cargo are called "liftpoints" and there are thousands of them. Thanks to orbital processing and shipyards it has been possible to construct larger spaceships that do not have to fight Earth's gravity to get there. Mars and Ceres in the Asteroid Belt have already been visited, but it is uncertain if the megacorporations will finance the planned 2045 expedition to Jupiter.
Fusion power is still on research stage, but major breakthrough have been made and some test facilities are already running. It is, however, vcery experimental and dangerous and is thus not yet in wide public use.
Thus fission power, internal combustion, solar power or other older energy providers are used. The main problem with some of them is that the resources are rare, and thus most of the time expensive. Not many men have wealth to drive around with gasoline-based vehicles, which nonetheless still have more powerful engines. Many IC vehicles use alcohol based fuel.
Nowadays, genetic technology allows you to have children with properties almost whatever you like to - if you can afford it. Similarly, all harmful organisms and bacteria can be destroyed by specialized bacteria or constructed cells, but it also allows generating some horrible biological weapons.
Although the cyberpunk vision of metal arms was never realised for practical reasons (although such an arm can be made if the owner wants it bad enough), it is possible and even relatively common to have your body augmented with genetically enhanced cloned organs or synthetic components that improve your natural abilities. The most basic augmentations are mainly surgical operations meant to correct organ flaws, such as having near-sightedness corrected synthetic lenses (safer and more reliable than the earlier method of carving the lens with lasers). The more complex the operation the more expensive it is and there is no upper limit to this.
If an arm is blown off and you are not short of cash, you can request a new one. It is cloned from your own tissue and for extra cost you can have plastic bones that bend instead of breaking, or a polymer mesh between the fat layer and muscles to stop low-energy bullets or knives from entering deeper. Muscle mass can be increased with both hormones and bioware implants, while nerves are rearranged to match the new muscle configuration and improve the reaction time and control the user has over his arm. Scientists have also learned how to make functional neural and hardware-neural connections. This is not as revolutionary as one might think, as some results were achieved with optical nerves already in the 1990ies. Replicating and interpreting known neural responses is fairly easy. The more interesting development is that also new responses and hardware can be wired into the neural system and the patient eventually learns to use them through practise, once the brains have been stimulated to establish new connections to match the current configuration.
Corporations have all the power that is available from the struggling goverments - which are mostly owned by various corporations. Most corporations are ruthless, cold and calculating, because it is their only way to stay ahead of the technological progress of others. And when the world is in global chaos and disorder, corporations more or less openly fight for the control of sea and land areas, important resources and highly educated people, their weapons ranging from propaganda and agents to open wars.
By definition, megacorporations are multinational corporations that are indenpendent from the rule of governments and able to negotiate with them as equals. In practise megacorporations have a stranglehold on national economies and could topple the governments if they wanted to. In regions where there is no need to legitimisize pro-corporation policies the governments have been toppled, but in First World countries governments and countries continue to exist, acting not only as a smoke screen for the megacorporation actions but also a buffer between the corporations and the First World military forces. The ordinary consumer does not encounter megacorp names and logos when shopping. The corps are well aware of their sinister reputation and negative market value. For this reason they have a host of product-line specific daughter companies in which the megacorp is the largest shareholder. A consumer rarely makes the connection between Elysium Foods logo on the pizza package and Esoku Corporation (accused of removing small-scale competitors by smuggling gene-engineered plant-killing bacteria into their seaweed plantations). Perhaps he even chose an Elysium product to 'boycott those nasty megacorps'.
In the countries which are still democratic to some extent, corporations have to keep a good public profile, and the most important thing to them is publicy. But when the country becomes more anarchic and people more desperate and have less chance to fight back, then the corporations attack to destroy their enemies and may even act openly, in the name of freedom, brotherhood or independence.
And in a world like that, there is a need for professional agents.
Of course things are not that bad in every country or city, especially in all areas of the living. But not be surprised when you cannot get replacement batteries to your PDA when you are in a country controlled by a rival corporation but be prepared to go to a black market and pay triple price and face the danger of prosecution.
In the ideal world Rebel Front is the alliance of idealists and dreamers fighting against the tyranny of evil and soulless megacorps. In the real world Rebel Front includes anyone not willing to live by the laws and rules the "proper society" and that includes hippies, terrorists and organised crime groups. Rebel Front is the underworld of the 21st century society and an unfortunate if also occasionally useful part of daily life in any of the large cities. Its presence is visible both in the number of prostitutes there are on the street and in the anti-corporate (or anti-government) graffitis that adorn the walls of poorer city blocks. Both idealists and organised crime like to draw lines between each other, but in practise there is much cooperation, with activists acting as fronts and couriers for the crime bosses. Some of the larger anti-corporate groups actually double as criminal organisations by using drug trade, illegal prostitution and bloodsports to finance their operations. Just as ideological differences can lead to violent clashes between radical movements, competition for illegal markets often leads to mob wars between organised crime groups.
21st century terrorism takes many forms and not all of them are violent. Hacking into G-Net TV-channels and inserting anti-corporate ads into the program is one. Stealing classified information from government and megacorp networks and broadcasting it in all the open forums of G-Net is another, and a potentially far more devastating than any bomb attack could be. Bomb attacks and shootings are targeted against megacorp personnel and known government collaborators, but there are often civilian casualties. Terrorists also provide intelligence to rural guerrilla forces in exchange for a share in the equipment looted from transports and warehouses.
Your life could be easy: you could be living in a corporate city-block, doing your daily computer system work or research, and occasionally going for a vacation to some island.
More propably, you live in the streets, gathering what you can from garbage, and doing whatever work is offered. Or maybe you are living in a corporate suburb city-block barracks, with nothing else to do but to watch corporate-censored channel with corporate propaganda all the day between those stupid soap operas. Or fighting for your life in a distant ruined country, trying to survive radioactive fall-out or chemical wastes.
Or maybe you are not one of the ordinary people. Maybe you are one of those professional agents, who are hired to do various jobs which ordinary forces can not handle or won't handle.
While the electric money has made its breathtough, the ancient paper money is still widely used and accepted. Most countries still have their own money (or Euro in a case of Europe), but global transfers are usually handled in corporate credits if not in Euros. However, when handling old paper money, change is usually given as small notes or even coins, while bigger purchases are made with credit cards or certified cash cards.
Rule number 1: Do not believe in anything, unless it is certified, real-time output. Picture and sound manipulation is so efficient with modern computer systems, that it is quite a trivial task to manipulate, change or edit any video, TV or other data. And since most media organizations are owned by some corporation, and you rarely see anything like objective news - unless that pirate channels taps temporarily on the same bandwidth with some main channel.
The only way to show liable data is by tapping to several certified media satellites, and to send real-time data through them. This way, the data is certified to be real-time, and not edited if watched at the same time. Add ten seconds, and then you cannot trust it anymore.