TRAVERSING OUR MODERN WORLD by Erin Tarn
The World, Circa 100 P.A.
The Coalition State of Chi-Town! The Coalition States (CS) are a loosely knit allegiance between five industrial kingdoms that rose out of the ashes of the Apocalypse in North America (US & Canada). Some of the Coalition States are nicer/meaner/tougher than others. Likewise, some are more tightly and actively allied than others.
What can be said about Chi-Town that isn't already known? Chi-Town is the biggest and meanest (evil) member of the CS, and the instigator of the Coalition. Its leaders share delusions of a political/military empire. My feeling is that the CS government under the maniacal rule of self-proclaimed Emperor Karl Prosek is totally corrupt. The city is a den of iniquity, but without question, the most powerful military and high-tech force in North America (perhaps the world).
The Coalition State of Chi-Town encompasses Northern Illinois and all of Iowa. The Iowa section is 70% farmland and 30% livestock, pigs and cattle. Tiny farm communities can be found every 50 miles or so. Only the occasional military base breaks the peace and beauty of this simple country. SAMAS and sky-cycles patrol the skies. Human troops and a few Dog Packs patrol the borders and keep the peace. Estimated population is 1.3 million.
The Illinois portion of the Chi-Town State if the undisputed hub of North American civilization. Hundreds of small towns and villages dot the land around a dozen large cities (each city has an average population of approximately 200,00 citizens). The pervasive presence of the military is evident everywhere. Despite the dictatorial government of the last 30 years, the people seem quite content and blissful. Sadly, the anti-magic and human supremacist attitude seems to be shared by the vast majority of Chi-Towns people. This is due, at least in part, to the territory's history of struggle against supernatural fiends from the rifts to the south, and the Federation of Magic's invasion of 12 P.A.
Chi-Town, the city itself, is the seat of the Coalition government, the iron fist of the military, the mother of propaganda, and the home of the illustrious Emperor, Karl Prosek. Chi-Town boasts a strictly human population of two millions, with an additional three million living in the slums, known as the Burbs.
The Burbs spread across the land for miles around the fortified city. They range from small city-like communities with 10 and 12 story buildings scattered among the homes and smaller two and three story dwellings, to the pathetic tents and shacks of the shanty-towns on the furthest outskirts. Except for the merchants who make their livings from the mercenaries and drifters who frequent the Burbs, most of its population are hopeful applicants waiting to be accepted as citizens of the ever growing Chi-Town fortress. I'm told the present waiting period is six years, but the people wait, dreaming of the famous grandeur and prosperity that the city has to offer. Sadly, I understand that 20% die of disease or famine every year. (I am not surprised. Except for the older, more affluent sections, nearest Chi-Town, such as City Side and Hillcrest, the squalor and lack of sanitation is appalling.) Another 15% will fall victim to demons and D-Bees. The survivors must fight a daily battle against dark forces. Still, there are always other hopefuls to take their place.
The Burbs are also crime ridden, especially in the shanty-town areas. Body-Chop-Shops are common, as are gambling houses, and all manner of places of ill repute. Roaming street gangs, bandits, slavers, crazed mystics, vicious psychics, malicious D-Bees, and supernatural predators all prowl the Burbs in search for victims or easy prey. Dog Packs and Psi-stalkers are an ever-present force on the streets, just as the SAMAS and sky-cycles are in the air. However, these police/soldiers are not so much concerned with protecting the people in the Burbs as they are with containing the criminals to the Burbs. Yes, this is Chi-Town's first line of defense against non-humans and malevolent forces.
Although the Burbs are considered a free-port, where all races and philosophies are welcome (and do indeed attract a vast number of adventurers and travelers), non-humans, practitioners of magic, scholars, and psychics are viewed with great prejudice. The Coalition peacekeeping forces seldom lift a finger to help a D-Bee or mystic even if they are witnesses to the attack. The murder of a D-Bee or practitioner or magic in the Burbs is rarely investigated, and then, only if the murderer appears to be another "undesirable," like a psychic, wizard, or D-Bee. Ironically, the Dog Packs are among the most reliable and helpful of the Burb's Protectors. They take a sincere and serious attitude regarding the murder and any violence taken against humans. They are particularly alert and aggressive toward crimes and atrocities committed by psychics, magic users, and supernatural beings. And they are ever vigilant for demonic fiends and monsters from the Rifts.
Chi-Town, the fortress city, towers a thousand feet above the squalor of the Burbs, like a man-made mountain of concrete and steel. Inside, the city is a comparative paradise. The upper levels, beginning at about levels 23 through 35, are the domain of the upper middle class and the wealthy. Despite their wealth, most are illiterate, but content laborers, which is how the CS likes its citizens. Each level has attractive stores, entertainment centers, and parks. The higher one goes, the more affluent and attractive the city becomes. Above level 35 are the very wealthy and political elite. There is even a university and a medical/science center on level 40, near the very top. A place of learning for the elite 14% of the population that enjoys formal education and full literacy.
Levels 22 through level four are the homes of the lower middle class and the poor. The lower one goes, the older and shabbier the city becomes. This is the home of city rats, cyber-clinics, bargain stores, pawnshops, and the black market. The lowest levels look almost like a sewer and are as corrupt and dangerous as the Burbs. This is a place of shattered dreams. The place where too many of the hopeful, waiting patiently beyond the city's walls, fall between the cracks and end up suffocating in humanity's own cruelty and apathy.
Levels three through one are the high security government levels. The Chi-Town military, research facilities, and manufacturing plants are all located in this vast lower bowl. Beyond this is the Imperial Sanctum, several (I'm told five) subterranean levels that house the Emperor, his family, military elite troops, generals and their families, fantastic research and science facilities, bionics wing, independent life support system and power plant, and the great, allegedly destroyed, Chi-Town library. All subterranean levels are maximum security areas restricted to the most powerful and elite members of the CS and Chi-Town. I am told that the Imperial Sanctum is virtually impervious to attack and could withstand a nuclear bombardment.
The fabled Chi-Town Library is said to have been destroyed in a titanic battle in 77 P.A., five years after Emperor Prosek rose to power. It was reported that nothing survived. But this is a lie! THe library still exists as a secret source of lost history and technology for the Chi-Town Coalition. ALL OTHER BOOKS ARE FORBIDDEN!!!! The possession of a book or any form of recorded history/data/literature is punishable by imprisonment and torture. A second offense is a DEATH sentence. This is part of the Emperor's plan to control and manipulate his people. A plan that both and his son (head of propaganda) have executed masterfully.
Chi-Town is not built on the remains of Chicago, but exists miles away. In fact, "Old Chicago" still stands in ruins. Much of it has been completely destroyed, but portions of its skyscrapers and cityscape are still present.
The ruins of Old Chicago can be found some 80 miles northeast of Chi-Town. The area is a forbidden zone with hundreds of warning signs and barricades warding away the curious scavengers. The reason is that two dozen ley lines slice through the ruins and a ley line nexus sits in was once the downtown metropolis, a few miles from the shores of Lake Michigan. This means that it is the source of strange occurrences, attracts magic and supernatural creatures, as well as admits strange, alien beings from rifts that periodically open. A typical patrol of 2-6 SAMAS of sky-cyclist cross the skies hourly, while ground patrols of Dog Packs, psi-hunters, urban assault robots, and eliminator squads make daily patrols into the city itself. Spider walkers defend the perimeter between the old ruins and Chi-Town.
Chi-Town will not allow a magic, psychic, supernatural, or any other community to establish itself in Old Chicago, because of its close proximity, and because of the memory of the Federation of Magic's invasion, which established a stronghold in the old ruins that cost Chi-Town thousands of lives. Any individual found practicing magic in Old Chicago is terminated on the spot. Demons and D-Bees are also destroyed without hesitation. Scavengers, bandits, and wayward travelers are escorted beyond the dead city's limits. Any resistance means death. Vampires and other supernatural menaces are constantly found to inhabit the ruins.