"In the end, it was the beginning. But first, it was the end."
- New Tellurian Bible, Book of Hunter: Devastations 1 (2725)
From the heavens rained destruction. Mother Earth shook under the fury of the Masters.
And smoke boiled into the sky and cast shadows and plague across the face of the Earth.
And men and women perished in raging fire and terrible thunder. The mighty among us were
humbled and slain even as the greatest of our cities became but scattered stones and memory.
When but a sixth portion of Earth's children remained, only then did the slaying stop.
- New Tellurian Bible, Book of Hunter: Devastations 2-7 (2725)
Savior of Humanity. Redeemer. Saint. Fraud. Killer. Leader. Jake Hunter was all of these.
In 2829, he was revered as the messiah who single-handedly dragged humanity out of the darkness
of the Devastation and led people toward rebuilding the world. Historical evidence confirmed
existence of Hunter, but the story of his life remained a mystery wrapped in the trappings of fable.
Hunter himself claimed he fought in bloodsport games for unknown extraterrestrial "Masters."
They placed us in great mazes built on the bones of our cities and caused us to fight the children
of other worlds, or to struggle against cold mechanicals, to sweat and bleed for the Masters' pleasure.
We became maddened beasts preying upon our fellows. And with each new atrocity, we sank deeper
into the Abyss. But some fought to keep the spark of hope alive. These "Hunters" refused the
poisons of despair. And I was raised thusly, a Hunter versed in the arts of battle, my greatest
strength the fire of my heart.
- New Tellurian Bible, Book of Hunter: Devastations 19-25 (2725)
Some said he was born in these alien arenas and took his first prey while still an infant.
Others claimed he was simply a warrior of exceptional talent. The Book of Hunter tells of
his reaching out to others, of escaping the Masters and thereby solving the "true test."
Where others threw scorn and stones, I forged friendship with the children of other stars
who shared our suffering. For the Masters tested us to decide if we were worthy. And when
one of the Kullrathi, the horned ones, joined me, we two built a ship and flew into the heavens.
And the Masters' servants withdrew into their black ships and left the skies of Earth forever.
- New Tellurian Bible, Book of Hunter: Devastations 31-35 (2725)
He stepped aboard his ship and left Mother Earth forever. And the days to come were evil indeed.
- New Tellurian Bible, Book of Hunter: Devastations 52 (2725)
Scholars pointed to the term "Rapture Offensive" to show that Jake Hunter was merely a myth, a messiah delusion, a collective hysteria among people who had suffered through Apocalypse. Archaeologists found no evidence of alien remains, arcane relics, or wrecked spaceships. And yet Jake Hunter became a universally revered fixture in every major religion. Whatever the truth, The Hunter brought light to the people of Earth during a time of great despair, and became a powerful symbol of hope and courage for humankind.
Violating curfew - DEATH.
Theft of food - DEATH.
Disobeying police - DEATH.
Disrespect of government - DEATH.
- Complete criminal code for Los Angeles metrozone, 2031
The Devastation left a crushed civilization in its wake. Nations were gone. Cities had been wiped off the maps. Roads and factories lay in useless rubble. Billions had died. In 2020, a majority of the population had been born during the Devastation, and few remembered the science and technology of the time before. For nearly 250 years, humanity would languish in self-pity and shock, as opportunistic villains exploited the sorrow and desperation of millions. Historians of the Empire called this period the Age of Decay.
Within a few years after Jake Hunter's disappearance, most of the world's population clustered amid the ruins of the once-great cities, forming gigantic, pestilence-ridden refugee camps that came to be called metrozones. The Devastation left agriculture crippled, and food was scarce. The warlords who fought their way to rule over the metrozones imposed brutal and arbitrary laws and hoarded supplies, weapons, and technology. Quality medical care was scarcer than food, and disease raged unchecked in the camps, killing more of the survivors. Thousands of refugees labored outside the metrozone walls as slave farmers under the eyes of watchful guards.
A thriving market grew in scavenged goods, slaves, and food. Scam artists ran the streets. Inhabitants turned to drugs, cults, or gambling. Hedonistic pleasure tents fed dark appetites. The value of life was pitifully low. Children were just commodities. Boys who survived past the age of twelve were sold to the warlords for cannon fodder in the bloody squabbles over food, water, petroleum, and scavenged technology. Girls were considered slaves and brood mares.
Bolder souls who followed the example set by Jake Hunter fled the metrozones' squalid tyranny and sought
a better future in rural lands. In the generations that followed, these "freedom hunters" managed to wrest
a surplus from the land.
They fortified the soil with nutrients and clear water, using scavenged machinery and materials, and eventually traded excess food and potable water to the filth-choked metrozones, which could not produce enough of either commodity themselves. The free hunters sought tools and other manufactured items that were still in supply in the metrozones.
New tools in turn allowed production of more food. Gradually, painfully, commerce once again flowed,
at first confined to small markets, then to caravans between metrozones, and finally between the
emerging meta-nations. As trade flourished, humanity rediscovered the technology of the past at a
surprisingly rapid rate.
Metrozones raided one another for food and scavenged parts, igniting continuous minor wars that formed the basis of the Age of Hope's ongoing war economy. Ironically, the need for better trained soldiers would lead to society's redemption. As the raids escalated to full-fledged wars, entrepreneurial traders recognized the potential of the war market. Metrozone warlords grew ever closer to these suppliers, until the corporations actually fused with their military customers. As these military corporations - milicorps - cemented their influence, they prolonged conflicts to strengthen their political hold, paying with the blood of the soldiers serving in the armies. Metrozone government and the milicorps became indistinguishable, with an executive board of directors controlling the armed forces.
As generations passed, recovering industry made warfare complex enough to require better-trained troops. The milicorps adopted long-term strategies to entrench their power.
They needed smarter warriors and better technology, so they built academies and research facilities.
They provided enormous incentives to enlistees in return for lifelong service. Within a generation,
the best way to escape the snarl of the "metroslums" was a military education. Conscripted slave-militias
gave way to professional soldiery.
By the end of the Age of Decay, milicorps ruled collections of nation-states - meta-nations - and dominated every aspect of life. Society was on the path to recovery; education, technology, industry, and science had re-emerged. Domestic pacification policies kept people happy and obedient. Humanity had moved from decay and fear to the beginnings of hope.
The Age of Hope lasted for over three hundred years, and bridged the gap between Decay and Fire.
Very little remained of the pre-Devastation era. The distinction between governments and corporations
blurred. Soldiers essentially became an elite caste. Multi-national conglomerates called meta-nations
ran the metrozones and deployed armies to strengthen control of the world market. Constant war emerged
as a benevolent institution, and prosperity grew from hundreds of wars fought over the course of centuries.
The benefits were great indeed; average human life expectancy and quality of life reached the highest levels in history.
By the end of the 24th century, automation permeated society. The value of human life became high enough that killing off thousands of bright, highly trained soldiers for market share was unacceptable. Engineers explored new areas of robotic control, materials engineering, and neural-net processing. Soldier survival rates jumped, and average life expectancy leaped to the century mark. By 2450, the population of Earth reached an estimated ten billion.
Science, art, and literature, advanced also, often funded indirectly by the milicorps. The public
congratulated itself, and philosophers produced smug arguments that humankind had reached a pinnacle
of artistic achievement. Writers coined the self-indulgent term "Age of Hope." The Golden Age had arrived.
Optimism and a terrifying confidence permeated society.
As longevity increased, social institutions changed. Retirement occurred later, and young people spent more time educating themselves. Professional standards rose, and the meta-nations began to spread into the solar system. In 2455, the first permanent lunar base established. A year later, the first manned mission to Mars launched the first lunar colony. Terraforming of Venus commenced in 2469. In 2470 asteroid mining became feasible and lucrative.
And yet the war continued, the hidden serpent in the garden. When acceptance of the war economy faltered, humanity fell victim to its own hubris in its quest for solutions. And the First Born Child of Humankind brought Fire that destroyed this Golden Age.
Age of Decay: The period of warfare and barbarism following the Devastation.
Age of Hope: A period of unparalleled prosperity and technological innovation following the Age of Decay.
Age of Isolation: A relatively short period of anti-technological sentiment following The Fire.
Caanon: Elder brother of Harabec Weathers and Grand Masters of the Imperial Knights.
Cell-Memory Drift (CMD): The sometimes drastic alteration of personality an Immortal faced as a consequence of inhabiting new bodies.
Code Duello: The body of custom and law that governed Imperial dueling and matters of honor.
Daemons: Subminds of Prometheus released in the O-Web during the Age of Hope. See Shadow War, The.
Devastation, The: The global destruction and anarchy that occurred at the end of the twentieth century.
Dirtborn, dirtboy, dirtghel (Martian): Derogatory term for Terrans.
Dust, dusting (Martian): Slang meaning either to kill something or as a general purpose swearword.
Duster: Slang for native Martian, as opposed to temporary Terran residents.
Emperor, The: Ruler of the Great Human Empire. See Solomon Petresun.
Fire, The: The genocidal war erupted in 2602 when Prometheus turned the world's Cybrid legions against humanity. It raged for twenty five years.
First-Thought//Giver-of-Will: Cybrid title for Prometheus.
Gierling, Ambrose: The fiery general of the TDF during The Fire.
Glitch, 'Brid: Derogatory human term for Cybrids.
Great Human Empire, The: The Empire created by Solomon Petresun to embody humanity's ideals and create a warrior tradition in defense of Earth.
Harabec: Younger brother of Caanon, a secret Immortal ace who led the Martian rebellion.
HERCULANS (Hercs): Primary ground vehicle of war in the 29th century.
Immortal: A human who has received an organimech brain transplant and accompanying mind transfer. The Immortal brain's theoretical life spanned millennia, thus offering a form of immortality via inhabiting a series of bodies through the years.
Immortal brains: Sophisticated solid-state neural nets encased in metaplas and powered by superconductor batteries. They kept the same shape as a human cerebrum and could adapt to the particular cranial space. Nanotech synapses regenerated or reconfigured as needed, so penetration of the casing did not necessarily mean the Immortal's death.
Immortal Brotherhood, The: The secret society of Immortals formed under the leadership of Solomon Petresun.
Imp Lice, the Lice (Martian): Derogatory term for the Imperial Police.
Imperial Knights: The elite shock troops of TDF.
Imperial Legions: The main planetary ground forces of TDF.
Imperial Police: The colonial law enforcement branch of TDF.
Metagen: Cybrid heretic.
Metanations: The conglomerate corporation-states of the 29th century.
Metaplas: Durable polymer-ceramic synthetic with a multitude of uses, from construction materials to vehicle armor.
Metheuselah Transfer, The: Creation of a new Immortal. The subjects brain was mapped and duplicated in the artificial matrix. Then a circuit linked the brain's electrical activity into the new brain, and careful neural surgery cut pathways in the biological brain. Once the electrical activity of the mind occurred solely in the organimech matrix, the connection was cut completely and the biological cortex was replaced.
Muster Zones (Cybrid): NEXT ships journeyed to mustering zones in deep space above the polar axis of the sun, close to the inner planets. Cloaking technology from the Cybrid cache shielded the armada from human probes. Pilotforms waited patiently in shutdown mode for the signal to attack.
NEXT, The: Cybrid term for themselves.
Nova Alexandria: Capital of the Great Human Empire. Located in Egypt on the ancient site of Cairo.
Planetary engineering gave humanity the power to reshape world to more Earthlike conditions.
Fusion generators, advances in genetic science, and heavy-lift thruster engines allowed large
scale manipulation of global environments. Ironically, many important advances in terraforming
came about during the efforts to repair the wartorn ecologies of Earth after The Fire.
Nevertheless, the beginnings of the largest projects in human history - the terraforming of
Mars and Venus - began in the earlier Age of Hope.
As the caps melted, the first atmospheric converters extracted oxygen from the ice and from the highly
oxided Martian surface. As the number of converters increased, macroscopic plants spread. First mosses,
then varieties of scrub grass and brush began to take root. By 2588, Mars had become a world of life.