Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Forsaken in the City

Sometime way back in the 21st century, cities became entirely self-sustaining. Urban agriculture had progressed to the point where the farmlands they once relied on were no longer necessary. Those who lived outside city limits were offered the chance to integrate, but most of them chose to pass up this offer, as they came from long traditions of rejecting the highfalutin’ ways and booklearnin’ that urban centers demand of their Citizens. The Forsaken, as they and their descendants came to be known, were ignored by the Citizens and left to their own devices.

The Citizens had already begun to transcend their humanity through cybernetic enhancements by the time the domes went up. Within a couple short centuries, even they no longer recognized or referred to themselves as human, adopting the formal classification homo machina. They had come to understand magick as a scientific phenomenon, and were beginning to incorporate it into their technology.

Meanwhile, the Forsaken’s culturally motivated rejection of both large-scale hierarchy and scientific study resulted in grotesque mismanagement of natural resources. Despite the carbon footprint of the cities having essentially disappeared, the lands beyond them were becoming more barren and poisonous than they’d ever been before  a scarred desert wasteland of mutants and madmen.
I live I die I take you with me

While the Forsaken fought amongst themselves over dwindling resources, the Citizens walled themselves off from the rest of the world with nearly indestructible domes. They continued their march of progress unhindered by the vast changes outside their bubbles.

Over the next century, many Citizens took to hunting and killing the Forsaken purely for sport (“eating” was no longer a thing that Citizens did). This predictably intensified the Forsaken’s perception of them as horrible demons or even gods. They weren’t all that far off, really; the Citizens’ new abilities were terrifying and their lifespans were now around a dozen times that of the average Forsaken. Even those Citizens who didn’t participate saw no ethical dilemma in the culling of clearly inferior and obsolete (but not dangerous to the Cities, only to the ecosystem and each other) lifeforms. It simply wasn’t their hobby of choice.

Fast-forward half a millennium. The dwindling population of the Forsaken still passes down their stories of the Godhunts, but none of them have seen a Citizen in living memory. The heroes among the Forsaken didn’t know what to expect when they defied the stigma against approaching the Cities, but they certainly couldn’t have expected what they found.

Giger's Trumpets of Jericho
The machinery of the Cities themselves was still in operation, but the Citizens were nowhere to be found. This was three years ago. The philosophically inclined speculate and argue about what happened to the Citizens or where they could have gone. Had they, as a group, transcended their need for physical forms? Did they sleep in the depths of the undercities? Were they all dead somehow, or had they uploaded their minds into the circuitry of the cities themselves?

The more practical among the Forsaken have collected near the dome, forming temporary settlements bound by fragile truces, with the purpose of exploring the city and salvaging whatever tools, artifacts, and secrets they can. Many don’t come back quite the same, and many more don’t come back at all.

Those who are strong and clever enough to survive these expeditions with their sanity intact speak of mechanical nightmares, disembodied voices, and an environment that is utterly beyond their experiences in every way. The fear these tales provoke is only matched by the greed inspired by the wondrous treasures that always feature in the stories.