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Archive - Afterlife Background

The Hyper-Cities

During the rebuilding, hard headed market economics led to the construction of vast sprawling urban conurbations home to hundreds of millions of people. The hyper-cities, as they become known, drew an ever increasing portion of the population to the bright lights and promise of wealth and success. In the end in excess of ten billion people were concentrated in fewer than 200 primary urban population centers, each spread over tens of thousands of square kilometers.

The population pressures and advancements in large scale engineering technology led to building ever upwards and downwards, with new layers of buildings and infrastructure built directly on top of crumbling 21st century architecture. Emerging from the smog and smoke of the industrial lower levels each hyper-city is a maze of interconnected skyscrapers and spires stretching kilometers into the sky.

Decades of corporate mismanagement since the collapse of nation-states has lead to an extreme and quite literal stratification of wealth. The richest in society occupy the very highest towers amongst their corporate offices and open air parks floating hundreds of meters in the air, while the lower reaches of the hyper-cities are occupied by increasingly poor and marginalised working classes.

In the most densely populated and deprived lower tiers of most hyper-cites, it has long ceased to be profitable for governance corporations and law enforcement agencies to maintain a presence. These areas, known as the warrens, are a law unto themselves, ruled over by whoever can take and hold power in the absence of real authority. The Unity Council has made efforts in the past to clean up the warrens and restore order, but for decades has simple chosen to ignore the problem, a decision which has come to haunt them after the Cataclysm, as the Warrens have proven a hot-bed of rebellion and ideal safe haven for resistance fighters.

Outside the walls of the hyper-cities, the rest of Unity-controlled territory is a vista of the crumbling remnants of 21st century cities and industries, and vast areas of sparsely populated agricultural land and irradiated wastelands – a harsh inheritance from the RAD Wars of the 21st century. The continents are criss-crossed with high-speed trans-tubes, used to link every hyper-city in the world. Yet many of these have been destroyed or compromised, and as such, some hyper-cities exist in a state of relative isolation.

Few within the remaining Unity controlled hyper-cities have any idea of the strife beyond the city walls. The denizens of the lower warrens continue to be brutally oppressed, and the majority of the worker classes continue to ply their trades under a shadow of fear. Surveillance drones buzz about the streets scanning every citizen for the tell-tale signs of defiance.

The Ruling Classes

Called Upworlders or spire-dwellers, the ruling elite were ultimately the cause of the Cataclysm. Now they live on, protected from the strict resource management of the Sphere. The families of senior mega-corp owners and senior personnel, they have lived in the lap of luxury for too long, and become utterly detached from the people in their charge.

The obsession of the ruling classes with purchasing everything that their hearts desire has slowly filtered to the middle-class workers, some of whom crave to emulate the Upworlders. The hyper-cities are filled with endless shopping malls, with labyrinthine corridors of flashing neon Virtual Vendor ports. Everything and anything can be purchased at the swipe of a cred-chip, from food and medical supplies to designer offspring. If there is a demand, then the Sphere will provide.

Thanks to the continued use of Afterlife technology, Unity councillors have incredible longevity, which they use to maintain controlling stakes in the mega-corps that often they themselves founded. Individual members wield such power that their personal security forces rival the best military corps and spy networks, bringing new meaning to the corporate world of hostile takeovers and aggressive talks. An addiction to Afterlife, coupled with their constant body modifications, has taken a toll on their humanity. They live in an amoral state, their spireward homes becoming pleasure palaces where every need is catered for. Cybernetic and biological enhancements are no longer limited to the standard human form – users can now order additional limbs, ocular circuitry and other, more macabre things, at the click of a button. From their decadent surroundings, the Up-Tier elite monitors the populace of the hyper-cities as playthings, systematically sanctioning arrests, torture, and other needless cruelties upon a whim. No-one asks where the ‘Disappeared’ have gone. No-one would dare.

The Sphere

Possession of the Sphere network is essential to the maintenance of Unity control. The Sphere is a highly advanced AI system, fully integrated into Unity society. Originally used for logistical resource allocation, it has since become the Councils primary tool for information exchange and intelligence gathering.

Connection with the Sphere was originally optional, but as soon as the Council realised its potential, it became mandatory for every machine, digital device and even citizen to interface with the Sphere, directly or indirectly. As mobile devices tend to be interwoven into clothing, accessories, or implants, the Sphere quickly became the ultimate in surveillance mainframes.

Sphere systems are so sophisticated that they are believed capable of self awareness, and thus the responsibility for managing individual tasks in various industries is split off into Sphere Nodes. Nodes are controlled by members of the council, and no one Node can communicate with another. Given their hated role in surveillance and control, it is little surprise that the destruction of Sphere Nodes is a priority objective for areas ceding from Unity Control.

Since the Cataclysm left the Unity Council’s ranks depleted, there are few who understand the inner workings of the Sphere. Whether it is sentient or not, none can tell, for it is cut off from the essential functions it would require to regain control of the global resource grid. And yet if it is self-aware, then it knows everything that has transpired since the rise of the Unity Council. And it waits.

Afterlife

Afterlife has become a catch-all term for a range of life-extending medical procedures. Everything from nano-surgery, cellular regeneration treatments and bionic augmentation can be had, for a price. Many of the procedures are strictly regulated, and some can be attempted days or even weeks after death; for the rich, death is a treatable condition.

The most controversial procedure is quantum wave-synching, a technique that can map the memories of a brain (even a dead one) into a digital medium. Memories are indexed, and sometimes sold to high bidders, as the ultimate high is to experience someone’s else’s memory. Theoretically, it would be possible to wave-synch an entire lifetime of memories, and re-map them onto a host brain; but given the dangers of even recreational synching, the wholesale transplantation of personalities has remained outlawed by the Congress. Wave-synching has, however, found its way into military applications, where it is used to confuse interrogation subjects, extract secrets from slain enemy soldiers, or force information from recalcitrant spies.

Prior to the Cataclysm the Council had legislated against most ‘life extension therapies’, which were strictly prohibited for any individual over the age of 100, although some say that many Upworlders have long surpassed that threshold. Of greater controversy still is the replication of bio-matter for the regeneration (or addition) of limbs or organic implants. Though synthetic engineering is cited as the source of these advances, there are those who whisper that the ancient practice of grave-robbing is rife in the so-called civilised hyper-cities, or that donor-clones are grown in vats and harvested at the behest of wealthy Afterlife patrons. Since the collapse of Unity control any restraint has disappeared and Afterlife medical procedures are freely carried out across the globe for anyone able to afford the treatments.


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