Dark Times (2019)

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RPG Item: Dark Times
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Publisher: The Polyhedral Knights
Year: 2019
Electronic (PDF, DOC, eBook, HTML, etc.)
312 pages
Size: 8.63 x 11.25 inches
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From the introduction:

The year is 2049 and the world is no longer the same place it was at the turn of the millennium.

Twenty six years ago, in the distant past of 2023, a doctor named Anton Valasakis made a series of remarkable advancements in the field of medicine at the head of his own pharmaceutical company, Prometheus Medical. The doctor had a grand design to see the world turned into a better place, and he had decided that he would be the one to usher in that change.

As a boy he had always enjoyed reading comic books, and so his flagship project was the development of a virus that would alter the genetic makeup of its victim, giving them extraordinary powers. When the Pentagon heard of his successes, they immediately tried to step in and take control, but by then the government was so deep in debt that most of its federal authority had been parceled out to private companies.

Doctor Valasakis was a patient man with a great deal of foresight, so it was no surprise that many of these companies were proxies run by Prometheus.

The first superhuman trial—known as Project Fire—was well into its early stages by this point. Test subjects were brought in, and a few even survived the testing, but no powers manifested as a result of the virus.

The company went back to the drawing board. Next on Valasakis’ list was nanotech. A decade went by as various options were explored and discarded. Finally, in 2033, human trials resumed in earnest. Able-bodied men and women were brought into Prometheus labs by promises of prestige, or money, or simple desperation. Silver fluid raced through their veins, building micro circuits that amplified and harnessed their production of bioelectric energy. Even though the process was costly, it was successful.

And that was when a strategically placed dirty bomb went off on the California faultline.

The ensuing chain-reaction of earthquakes leveled a series of major cities and turned the west coast into a disaster recovery zone. With this terrorist attack, America’s financial and political decline was cemented by a sense of helplessness against the evils of the world.

Fortunately, Doctor Valasakis chose this moment to take the stage. In a personally funded, internationally broadcast news conference with every major American news network—including the ones he did not own–he offered a multi-pronged solution to the problem of America’s increasing irrelevance. With federal permission, he would take on the responsibility of restoring the affected area and hunting those responsible for the attack, and he would do it by deploying his new line of nanoenhanced superhumans.

Prometheus Medical had amassed so much wealth and power by this point that Valasakis’ move was little more than a transition from ruling the nation covertly to ruling it out in the open. He was given permission to operate his own peacekeeping force, answerable to a federal authority that he already controlled, and with no other checks on the power that it represented. In short order, the alleged perpetrators of the California attack were rounded up, and their confessions were intercut with scenes from the recovery effort and broadcast nationally.

Of course, this further publicized the success of Valasakis’ experiment, and the prospect of stealing the nanite serum piqued the interest of groups ranging from the companies that Prometheus had climbed over to get to the top, to other nations, extremists, militias, and terror cells.

Prometheus’ success had painted a target on its back, and the period between 2033 and 2039 were marked by an escalating series of clandestine raids, off-the-books projects, and increasingly forceful consolidations of power by Doctor Valasakis.

During this time major companies flourished, buying up land, conducting research, and cutting those parts of their workforces that were cheap to replace with programs and machines. As the number of jobs that a person could do without an engineering or biotech degree dwindled, the gap between the haves and the have-nots worsened and only the constant presence of Prometheus’ peacekeepers kept some cities from rioting.

Then something unexpected happened. It seemed the original surviving test subjects of Project Fire had had children and went on with their lives, and those children had awakened at age sixteen with amazing powers. This was not something Valasakis had anticipated, and it set him on full alert when the first one was discovered.

Suddenly it was a hunt to round up all the test subjects and their children. Prometheus sent out their soldiers, many of which were fearful they would be replaced by lab-grown versions of these infected children, and so several groups of Peacekeepers declared that the children were resisting arrest and opened fire. In the ensuing violence, the children of Prometheus went into hiding—and representatives from other corporations, countries, and extremist groups were all too happy to offer shelter to them and their loved ones, especially if it meant getting a chance to study the effects of the virus.

In the ten years since then, a lot has happened. Doctor Valasakis has maintained a shaky grip over the fractured, formerly-united States, but there are dozens of companies just beneath him that would love to see Prometheus shoved from its throne. Valasakis, for his part, seems to have stopped aging, but his methods have only become more coercive and his rule more oppressive. The industrial espionage that began as a race to copy his nanotech has branched out into a kind of cold war between hundreds of different laboratories, all working on their own formulations of the retrovirus, the nanites, and combinations thereof. There are now many working strains of the human enhancement serum, and not all of them are without consequences, as a growing population of disfigured, disenfranchised mutants can attest.

Doctor Valasakis has not given up his original goal, revisiting the old Project Fire notes and working feverishly to perfect the virus. Meanwhile pockets of freedom fighters lead by the Evolved Liberation Army, a group made up of children of Prometheus, have sprung up, trying to rally a poor, disaffected populace into pushing back against the companies that own their neighborhoods, their schools, and sometimes even their organs.

They are not having much luck.

Still, the conflict between the children and their creator looms ever larger, and one thing is for sure.

The world is headed for Dark Times.

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