Legacies: Shadow Generations
SLOUCHING TOWARD APOCALYPSE (1999-2010)
The kickoff came with two Supreme Court rulings, made in 1999 and 2001 respectively, that set the stage for a world in which megacorporate octopi call the shots and use shadowrunners like so many pawns in their games. Megacorporations had begun to evolve in the 1980s and ’90s, when merger fever had everyone from banks to defense contractors glomming together like so much gunk on bathroom tile. But the first real nails in the coffin of the old world were the Seretech and Shiawase decisions. The first one upheld Seretech Corporation’s right to maintain an armed force for the protection of its personnel and property, effectively legitimizing private corp armies. The second had even worse consequences; it established corporate extraterritoriality, giving multinational corporations the same rights and privileges as foreign governments. (The Shiawase Decision owed its existence to a botched attack on a Shiawase, Inc. nuclear power plant by the radical eco-group TerraFirst! Evidence subsequently acquired by TerraFirst! that Shiawase had conspired with several other corps to stage the attack was destroyed when a bomb wrecked the group’s California office and killed several key members. Probably a bomb planted by a shadowrunner. That’s how things work in the Sixth World.)
The Resource Rush and Lone Eagle
The world felt the consequences of the corps’ newfound power and influence right away, when a mass corporate land grab snarked off a bunch of Native American tribes and helped redraw the map of North America. Barely a year after the Shiawase Decision, the U.S. government sparked the Resource Rush, a corporate grabfest of natural resources from Indian reservations and federal parklands. A real sweet deal, it was; the gummint invoked eminent domain to bring property under its control, then licensed its exploitation to corporate sponsors. The land grab was the proverbial last straw for many Native Americans; we’d spent centuries taking everything away from them, and now the Great White Father was snatching at what little they had left. The more radical-minded founded the Sovereign American Indian Movement (SAIM) to fight the corporate takeovers.
The SAIM talked a good game, but didn’t make much headway against cold, hard corp cash until 2009, when United Oil Industries acquired the petrochemical resources in one-tenth of the remaining Indian reservations. That acquisition was the spark that lit the flames. The SAIM responded by capturing a missile silo at the U.S. Air Force’s Shiloh Launch Facility in northwest Montana, then threatened to launch the missiles unless the U.S. government and the corps that owned it returned all Indian land.
Predictably, no one really tried to settle the issue. Instead, the U.S. head honchos spent ten days pretending to negotiate and then sent in the Delta Team anti-terrorist squad. The “good guys” recaptured the silo, but not before someone sent a single Lone Eagle ICBM on a collision course with the Russian Republic. World War III was staring us in the face—and then the impossible happened. The warheads never hit. To this day, the truth as to why hasn’t been uncovered. Did the Russkies’ missile defenses work, or did we get a miracle? You tell me.
While all this was going down, of course, the Leaders of the Free World were keeping the folks who’d elected them in the dark about the planet’s impending destruction. Once the heat was off, however, the Lone Eagle “incident” (as it came to be called—I love understatement) proved to be a propaganda boon in the dispute with the SAIM. When the public found out about it, Native Americans became pariahs just about everywhere. With a little help from corporate PR departments and a hyped-up national media, all Native Americans became scapegoats for SAIM. Before long, anti-Indian riots were breaking out nationwide.
The U.S. Congress, quick to pick up on poll numbers that showed Americans ranking Indians as less trustworthy than car salesmen, added to the xenophobic atmosphere by passing the Re-Education and Relocation Act just months after its introduction in late 2009. The Act called for the confinement of anyone connected in any way to SAIM. On the same day, Canada’s Parliament passed the Nepean Act, legitimizing internment camps for Native Americans. Not surprisingly, abuses of both laws were rampant. Throughout 2010, thousands of innocent Native Americans got shipped off to “re-education centers” (my personal favorite euphemism for concentration camps). Many of them never returned.
An interesting spot of trouble cropped up in Texas that year as well—the only one that came close to hitting the real culprits behind the whole mess. A gang of unemployed, homeless workers stormed the Dallas HQ of United Oil Industries, demanding that the “fascist corporations” be held accountable for the city of Dallas’ financial and crime-related problems. The governor of Texas called in Texas Ranger Assault Teams, and after the smoke cleared, the Texas state legislature passed laws giving corporate security forces carte blanche in dealing with armed intruders. (So be sure to thank any Texans you know for helping usher in the era of “Shoot first, ask questions later” as a legally sanctioned operating procedure.) Around the world, other laws were being passed along similar lines, allowing the creation of urban militia units armed with military weaponry, and giving residents the right to contract private security firms to protect their communities with lethal force. That set the stage for the existence of Lone Star, the for-profit rent-a-cops that so many shadowrunners love to hate.
The first decade of the new century also saw Japan re-emerge from its long recession as a major power, mostly because of its wealthy and rapacious corporations. (Yup, we’re still not done trashing our modern-day robber barons.) In 2005, backed by Japanese corporate interests, South Korea declared war on North Korea. In early 2006, North Korea launched nukes at Japan in a desperate effort to force them out of the conflict. The missiles didn’t detonate, however, and by the end of the year North Korea was overrun. Emboldened by the success of these maneuverings, Japan soon afterward proclaimed itself the Japanese Imperial State. It followed up by deploying the first of a fleet of solar-powered collection satellites to beam microwave energy to receptors on the Earth’s surface. With this relatively cheap method of distributing power to isolated regions, Japan (read: the Japanacorps) began a virtual economic takeover of the Third World. The resurgence of Japan as a military power soon followed, as the people of the Philippines, San Francisco and elsewhere found out. But we’ll get to that.
VITAS — the new black death
All this paled, however, in the face of the VITAS plague. The first cases of Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome turned up in India in 2010; by the end of the year, the disease had claimed roughly a quarter of the world’s population. People panicked; even the rich and well-cared-for could die of this scourge, and those still healthy resorted to any means necessary to stay that way. Mexico City suffered through one of the most brutal responses, which the locals call “Terror Time”; as the dead piled up in the streets, self-styled Citizens’ Action Committees burned whole portions of the city as “a safety precaution.”
Which has done more damage so far—Man or Nature? You make the call!
2003: A flash flood in the North Sea region of Germany spreads toxic water everywhere. Hamburg is flooded in sewage, and several nuclear plants go through emergency shutdowns.
2004: In Great Britain, a nuclear meltdown in Kent creates a local irradiated zone and kills more than 6,000 people.
2005: A major earthquake rocks New York City, killing 200,000 and doing billions of nuyen worth of damage.
2008: A meteor impacts with the Mir II space platform (recently sold by the Russians to the Harris-3M corporation), killing two of the crew outright. The rest die later when Harris-3M fails to launch a rescue mission. (Nice folks, those 3M guys.)
2009: The French nuclear plant at Cattenom, on the German border, suffers a meltdown, contaminating Luxembourg, French Lorraine and German Saarland.
2011: A banner year. Hurricane-force winds push poisoned North Sea waters into the mouth of the Elbe River, bursting numerous dams and dikes. The flood washes away much of the Netherlands and buries large parts of Belgium, Germany and Denmark under toxic sludge. Heavy spring floods hit western England, landslides bury Wales and central Scotland suffers an earthquake. The natural disasters are followed by a string of toxic leaks from landfill sites and chemical spills into rivers. And to top it all off, two more nuke power plants in Great Britain suffer critical meltdowns, killing thousands.
2016: A gang of terrorists causes a major oil spill in the North Sea that penetrates more than 20 miles inland, creating the Scottish Fringe Toxic Zone.