Operation: Bad Luck
THE SIXTH WORLD
At the turn of the millennium, everyone knew the world was changing. Booming and busting economies, the formation of the European Union and the breakup of Eastern Europe and the Soviet states, religious unrest, global warming, the rise of the Internet. The stage was set for a true paradigm shift. In retrospect, most historians will point to two key events that changed history’s course to bring us to today.
The more pedestrian of the two came in 2001, when, in the face of massive lobbying and an aborted eco-terrorist attack, the United States Supreme Court granted the Shiawase Corporation’s greatest wish: extraterritoriality. In essence, Shiawase became a sovereign nation, and every piece of land under its control was exempted from the laws and levies of the United States. Similar decisions followed across the globe. Shiawase was only the first of the megacorporations; Keruba, BMW, ORO, Mitsuhama, and many others followed in their wake. After a series of devastating conflicts, in 2023 a group of the largest megas banded together to form the Corporate Court, providing a set of rules governing corporate interactions. By 2050 the corporation had more or less supplanted the nation as the basic sociopolitical entity.
The second, less defined, and more fundamental change had been building for centuries. It came to a head in 2011. Biologists discovered new species with unusual attributes, some of which couldn’t be explained by biochemistry or even basic physics. Then human children began to arrive with massive mutations. The UGE event – Unexplained Genetic Expression – mystified the world, as children born to the same parents seemed to be of different species entirely, while others across the world were eerily similar, fitting into a few basic “metatypes.” Religious leaders denounced the new meta-humans as “demons” and “abominations.” Nuclear reactions worldwide began to go haywire, as if the rules governing them were being rewritten. Several reactors melted down, some so catastrophically as to create permanent Exclusion Zones, as in Scotland and later Saar-Lorraine-Luxembourg.
Even with the sweeping changes happening to the world, no one was prepared for the return of the dragons. On 24th December 2011, a rift appeared over Mt. Fuji and the Great Dragon Ryumyo lit up the skies of Japan. Two days later Celedyr materialized in Wales. Humanity reeled as the dragons arrived and established their circles of influence. Ghostwalker, Hualpa, Lofwyr, Hestaby, they were far too powerful to shut out. Though relations between man and serpent were rough at first, eventually we accepted each other. Dragons ran corporations, fought wars, taught men magic – oh, did I mention magic? Yeah. The dragons brought magic back. Or something like that. Just as some people were suddenly born elvish, some people Awakened to their magical powers.
Anyways, things have settled down since the Years of Chaos. Sort of, anyway. The efforts of the great dragon Dunkelzahn brought the Sixth World together; his success as a businessman, a sage, and briefly as President of the UCAS re-emphasized the virtues of diplomacy. The corps have settled into an uneasy balance under the auspices of the Corporate Court, and the rate of balkanization of the old political super-powers has slowed dramatically. Of course, since the beginning of the millennium we’ve had the Comet, two Crashes, at least one Omega Order, the Great Ghost Dance, dozens of wars and military actions and who knows what else. I doubt we’re out of the woods just yet.
Damn. I was trying to be all official-like, but ain’t nothing that can keep that twang in check for long. Just make sure you read this over good. Histoire-Beta2.0g’s got a test planned for you next week. I cracked the lesson plan. Don’t tell anyone I told you. Be good, kid, and say hi to your Mommy for me.
Sent 2077-02-19-20:17.06 from FastJack to netkitten
- – -
Boston, Massachusetts, UCAS
1st April 2072
The Corporate Court frowns upon major- and minor-league corporations fighting in the streets, so when the big boys need to do things quietly, they look to you, the shadowrunners. You may not have the training, the gear, or the will of a private army, but you have some big selling points. You’re deniable. Better yet, you’re disposable. You are the Kleenex of the Sixth World. You get told “go here, do this,” you don’t ask any questions, and you get paid in hard nuyen in heavily-encrypted credstick form. Corporate scrip is for suckers. Most of you don’t even have the Standard Identification Numbers that allow a government to acknowledge your existence. Life is harder for the SINless, but at least you don’t have to endure the constant targeted advertising and police-security “check-ins” that the SINners do.
As members of the Morningstar Group of “personal and corporate security consultants” – read: mercenary free agents – you pick up the unusual, difficult, and most of all dangerous work that others aren’t equipped to handle. MSG is no Lone Star, but you’re well organized, well armed, and have earned a reputation for getting things done cleanly. The megas love an organization like MSG, since it combines the ephemerality of runners with the experience and gear of a small army. MSG is a small group, less than 200 members, but Regulus and the other big-wigs recognize the value of cooperation, so their contacts in the UCAS are extensive and he or Taser “knows a guy” in just about every major country.
Though the training is top-notch and the pay solid, Morningstar operates on a much more casual basis than your average paramilitary group. The higher-ups encourage everyone to call them by first names or tags, and the only enforced ranks are “Executive,” “Member,” and “Probie.” You’ve been with the outfit a few years. You’ve survived the usual cannon-fodder missions the probies get sent out on, and earned the respect and seven-pointed silver badge of a Morningstar merc. Sometime last night you got the usual ping from Tammy announcing a new job offer. She wants you and a handful of others to show up on base at 1100 for a briefing and acceptance.