In the 2060′s unrest in the Middle East had not quieted significantly. The United States maintained a large military presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, as well as small forces in other key Arab countries (such as Saudi Arabia). It was in this state of affairs, with military forces stretched far too thin, that prompted the Second Civil War.
Texarkana (formerly the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas) had been planning a secessionist move, quietly building up their national guard units. Oil tycoons had recently been extremely prosperous in that region, with several new locations of untapped crude discovered. Businessmen and politicians in the region had realized that, without the consumption of the other 46 states (Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2052), Texarkana would be an oil exporter. With the military strained, Texarkana was able to dissolve ties with the US without much of a fight in 2065.
Under these circumstances, public confidence in Middle Eastern peace-keeping efforts fell dramatically, and by 2073, all US forces had been withdrawn from the region. Without US military solidarity, what fragile peace existed in the Middle East died completely when a Syrian nationalist group systematically destroyed Saudi oil fields, blaming their westernization on their great wealth. Sides in the war were taken, but just as quickly swapped as the fighting became more intense. For nearly a century now, The land from the Sinai to Afghanistan has been in a constant state of chaos and war under the acrid smoke of burning oil fields.
Texarkana’s first move after separating from the US was to join OPEC. Within a decade, however, the chaos in the Middle East left Texarkana, Venezuela, and Indonesia as the only members. The near total loss of oil available in the world left people looking for alternatives.
The US capitalized on this search by finally supporting ethanol manufacturers. With switchgrass-based ethanol, Des Moines, IA, and Omaha, NE became home to some of the wealthiest men in America. Since Ethanol was no so much cheaper, most of the world started using it instead of petroleum, which in turn nearly bankrupted Texarkana.
In the 2090s, The US felt up to playing world police again. Tensions were on the rise in Pakistan and India, and the US, with relations warming with India while cooling with Pakistan for the last half-century, agreed to send a large force to help India suppress a Pakistani insurgency.
It wasn’t until the 2130s till anyone learned that China had perpetrated the incident, but in 2097, a “dirty bomb” was set off on a US military installation just inside the Pakistan border. The Pakistan government blamed India and claimed it was an attack, and immediately launched nuclear warheads. They had secretly been producing more of the weapons for decades, and the destruction was terrible. India responded in kind and now the region is destroyed. Cruises are available to see the destruction, but the inhabitants of the region are still stunted and sickly, and very few have the courage to explore more than the very fringes of the area. New nuclear explosions are detected every few months, proving that most organizations had vastly underestimated the number of warheads in the region.
China had made the bomb and given it to local terrorists to blow up, as well as planted people in the Pakistan government to encourage officials to act rashly. They had done this to rid themselves of potential opposition and to hurt the US’s military capability. They were successful, and the US again withdrew their forces back home. The US has not sent a significant military force to foreign lands since.
China used the opportunity, and their alliance with North Korea, which they dominated, to take total control of the Far East. By 2143 they controlled everything from Indonesia to Mongolia, including the Phillipines and Japan, and even parts of eastern Russia. While successful, their military campaign had been very costly, and they still desired to take more of Russia to increase their ethanol production capability. In a deal supported by most US businesses, the US agreed to buy Japan from China.
In the early 21st century, Hong Kong had split with China, and, joining with Taiwan, had formed the New Chinese Republic. The NCR has little in the way of natural resources or production facilities, but they are the biggest and richest banking center on the planet. There are very few business in the world that do not have some sort of representation in the NCR. Due to it’s economic importance, China decided that conquering the NCR would not help their situation, and the rest of the world were sure to defend it, thus the NCR remains independent and financially important to this day.
Egypt, being more western than most Arab states, but not having the wealth that Saudi Arabia commanded, managed to extricate itself largely from the problems in the Middle East. Instead it turned to it’s own imperialistic designs. Absorbing Ethiopia and other surrounding nations, they formed the Grand Kingdom grew slowly, but Egypt was clear about establishing it’s authority, and took to building obelisks and pyramids in the regions it conquered. The Grand Kingdom controls most of Mediterranean and northeastern Africa.
A second empire, established along the Ivory Coast, holds less permanent and exclusive control over its territory. The African Empire claims to control nearly all of the Atlantic coast, but there are many cells of resistance and locations where the Emperor has no control at all. The African Empire is brutal in its attempts to control its people, however, and genocide is not infrequent. Many of those who resist imperial control are small tribes, and they are wiped out entirely rather than pacified. The remainder of Africa remains controlled by small groups: villages or tribes or even family groups. The major exception is South Africa, which remains autonomous and relatively strong.
In 2031 a minor gold rush sparked some interest in Peru, but the fervor quieted quickly. A few prospecting groups remained, however, and in 2059 a group sponsored by Gomez-Martin-Smith, a Venezuelan investment firm, discovered rich uranium deposits. Several others were also discovered by agents of the Peruvian government, and Peru began to use it’s wealth to gain dominance in South America. A major university was developed as well as a state-controlled arms and computer research organization. Because wages and resources were so abundant, some of the greatest minds in the world were soon employed by Peru. By 2088, Peru felt they could attempt anything. They quickly took Much of eastern and northern South America, however, Brazil prevented further movement to the south, and aggressive Peruvian expansion seemed to be complete by 2119. Today Peru is the major power in South America, and is perceived as a bully by the other nations on the continent. They have solid production power and a well-trained military, and are not afraid to use either to enforce their interests
Australia, though ideologically close to many of the major players on the world stage, chose to sit out the various wars and struggles by avoiding entanglements on all sides; the nuclear devastation of Southeast Asia has acted as a buffer zone giving them an extra layer of separation from world affairs. In light of this, Australia has become a haven for people from all over the world seeking to escape the turmoil or oppression of their native region; its primary defense is a lack of offense. While Australia has a healthy economy, it doesn’t have anything so desirable that the five major powers of the world want to expend resources to control the distant region. It doesn’t seek to tell other geopolitical entities what to do, and thus it is largely left alone. Australia has discovered a number of oil producing sites in Antarctica, which they remain quiet about hoping no one will take it from them. Thus they have very little dependence, if any, on the US for fuel and energy.
In the 2080s, Europe was decimated by several plagues. Livestock diseases led to contaminated food. Even when it was detected before sale it led to a decline in the availability of food, leading to malnutrition. But contaminated food was reaching consumers with greater frequency. Then some strains of livestock virii mutated and began infecting humans directly. The borders of Europe were almost entirely closed, with the exception of food imports.
The EU was faced with severely declining birth rates, and rising death rates due to disease and terrorism (most of it originating from European groups). Many business were failing simply because there was insufficient labor or professionals to keep things running. To save itself from burning out altogether, the EU governing body declared martial law and took complete control of all industry in order to improve the situation. Only the United Kingdom, by refusing to allow EU policies to take their independence, remained separate, though they continue to suffer from many of the same problems. Perceiving Ireland as a backdoor threat, the UK (with semi-secret US support) conquered it and now occupies the island with overwhelming military force. European citizens are stereotyped by the rest of the world as unmotivated drunkards, but the government is desperately trying to reverse the massive depopulation problem and rebuild their infrastructure.
The 2110s saw an economic depression in most of the world. The two countries to endure it well were the NCR and the US. The US used large grants of aid and loans to coerce most Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean into policies favorable to US interests. Over the next several decades, US control became more strict, and eventually most of these countries voted to become states in the US in order to have more say in their governance. Newfoundland, Greenland and Haiti (comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic) are the only non-US controlled territories in North America or the Caribbean, the remainder have become US states.
A New Development
In 2150, the world was witness to the longest total eclipse of the sun ever documented. It was predicted to be 7 minutes in length, long in and of itself, but for reasons astronomers try to explain with terms like “interstellar cloud” or “dark matter manifestation,” the sun was hidden for more than ten minutes, and this “eclipse” was visible over the entire sunward facing hemisphere. It is to this event that the origin of metahumans is typically traced.
Each geopolitical entity has its own position regarding the existence of metahumans. The NCR has firmly established them in their legal and judicial systems, affording them identical protections as ordinary humans. The US, EU, and China, however, officially deny their existence, though the normal man on the street generally acknowledges their existence. The “average person” attitude toward metahumans is one of fear and suspicion. Violent demonstrations and beatings of metahumans are not uncommon, and in governments that don’t acknowledge their existence, these are not treated as hate crimes.
The Order of Lichtburn, named after the first metahuman “martyr,” is a covert, private organization, operating primarily in the US, that seeks to discover and protect metahumans. Little is known about their further agenda or motivations, but their operatives, primarily metahumans themselves, are extremely dedicated and effective.
Metahumans are not uber-powerful supermen. They have less glamorous abilities and less raw power than you read in most comics. Someone who could control fire is incredibly powerful, whether or not he could create it. Most powers eat up a lot of stored calories when used, leaving the person using the power exhausted and hungry afterward. Metahumans are also still uncommon. It is estimated one person in 100,000 may have metahuman talents, though actual documented cases are much more rare. Thus there are a possible 100,000 metahumans alive among the 10 billion people on earth, though the more conservative estimates place this at 10-50,000.
US Business in the 22nd Century
By the end of the 21st century the US was more or less crippled militarily, at least in an international sense. However, far from turning the US into a third-rate power, the US found itself an economic powerhouse. Being in control of the “Fuel Basket” in the mid-west, the US controlled fuel prices like OPEC once had. They also retained control of much of the industrial infrastructure in the world, since the EU had collapsed. Thus the most powerful NGOs on the international stage are American. And the most important of these is ASI.
ASI Corp, or Auditing, Security, and Investigation, is a private organization with branches in nearly every nation on earth, including Australia and Korea. The US government often uses ASI for contracts and oversight matters, even though they grumble about ASI’s use of metahumans. ASI is also looked at as a neutral, impartial party in inter-corporation disputes, and is used for mediation more often than the US courts, especially in international cases. It is also well known secret that ASI can be depended on for espionage and counter-espionage, though how far into “black ops” they will go is not commonly known. There has never been substantial evidence to litigate ASI, and they are extremely careful not to abuse their position or to use the information they gain (or are given) except as it relates specifically to the contract. ASI is seen as a scrupulous group by some, and just this side of evil by many. However, it is universally recognized as a necessary and largely impartial entity, and is used even by groups who don’t like them. There exists no better intelligence or security organization on the planet.
ASI is the largest business in Century City, where their world headquarters is located, and a good half of the population works for ASI on some level. Most other local businesses depend on contracts with ASI for their continued well-being, including the prestigious Century City University. There are several buildings and academic programs at CCU named after ASI CEOs and board members, including the physics, chemical, and biology programs, the science building, the political science and law schools, and, oddly, the Classical Studies programs.
Every ASI employee spends at least 6 months in Northern California for training and grounding in the corporate culture. Due to its connection with ASI, Century City is one of the few locations in the US that can openly acknowledge metahumans and not suffer significant consequences on the national level. The stigma associated with metahumans is much less prevalent here, which is why most think that the Order of Lichtburn, known to have an antagonistic relationship with ASI, is also headquartered there.
ASI resources are vast, and include several R&D divisions, technology development, and their security force. Most corporations have a small army (usually referred to as a “security force”), but ASI’s paramilitary security force is larger than most states, if not all of them.
Every business has at least one security employee or contractor (often contracted from ASI) who is trained to kill intruders (no rent-a-cop 60 year olds anymore; security is an important, directly physical business). This has contributed to the blasé attitude toward violence in the US. When you grow up seeing heavily armed soldiers standing around McDonalds, you aren’t bothered seeing men beating each other bloody on TV.
The sports industry has also changed. The culture of violence led to the legalization of manslaughter in most places for “arena sports,” which include things like the new football league and demolition derbies. Gladiatorial exhibitions are common, but this is often viewed as outright murder because it is more intentional, so these fights are usually taken to the point of incapacitation instead of death. Since it is cheaper to repair a robot than pay a human to die, a culture of robotic sports has grown up, but fans still appreciate “real humans” in the games and get more excited about these “Genuine Games.” Many large businesses sponsor a team in at least one sport; the less prosperous ones sponsoring robotic teams, and the rich participating in Genuine Games.
Space programs have been on hold for many decades everywhere. There is enough unrest on the earth to make interest in other planets close to nil. Still, there is the occasional religious group that enters an interstellar craft bound for distant stars at half the speed of light. Obviously, no one has ever heard of these expeditions again. There are rumors that ASI is making plans to set up moon colonies, but since most people have a grandfather who knew someone who died when the last lunar settlement failed, this is typically written off as insane speculation.
Notes on US Politics
While civil rights are still a major internal issue for the US, there is much less concern for what goes on in other nations—cops beating the Hispanic guy next door will cause violent demonstrations, but genocide in the Grand Kingdom will get very little attention.
The federal military is almost non-existent, and most experts agree that a moderately sized company could defeat them. Security forces with other companies prevent this, however. A large majority of the 92 states have a beefed up National Guard force, and all of them have laws compelling corporations to supply military aid in the event of need. Thus government spending on military is much lower, allowing for much lower taxes and great social services.