Looking back over the history of the 21st Century, we can see that turbulence was present from the outset. Weapons of Mass Destruction, resource shortages and climate change, civil conflicts and international tension, accelerating technological breakthroughs and spiralling socio-economic inequity. The developments started out in a way that were shocking to local observers at times, but which could be easily enough ignored by those not in direct contact with the consequences. Entire industries arose to preserve the profits of the status quo by keeping as many people in ignorance of their own fate, for as long as possible.
Eventually – at some point in the 2020s – the facade disintegrated under the pressure of exponential change, and people were forced to face their reality. At that point, all hell broke loose. Vast swathes of human life, knowledge, and potential were lost in the chaos. Certain communities survived, but they did not do so in accord with any allegiance to the norms or ethics of the societies which existed before the collapse. Their survival was instead a raw function of their preparedness and readiness to adapt, exactly as described by Darwin. Thus, the societies which emerged from the collapse were very different from those which existed before; from their resources, technology, and living conditions, to the very way they perceived Humanity and the universe.
Zero State, Blackstar, and the Basilisk
The Zero State (ZS) is one of those surviving communities, one of perhaps a dozen existing in the late 21st Century, each on the scale of anywhere between a million and a billion citizens. ZS is a distributed, high-technology State whose Citizens tend toward some degree of posthumanity, from low levels of Transhumanism to being full-blown Artificial Intelligences. ZS is governed by a system of twelve Houses which collectively adhere to a political philosophy known as Social Futurism.
The critical factor which made all the difference between this ‘merely catastrophic’ bottleneck and a complete collapse into a new Dark Age (or indeed the complete annihilation of all life on Earth) was anticipated since at least the 1950s as “The Singularity”. In other words, those communities which had access to radical technological developments survived, despite a constant barrage of global problems, and those without such access did not survive. Despite much hyperbole and utopian expectation, the simple reality of the Singularity manifested as a very brief period in which all the fundamental rules of human existence changed, and it was effectively decided who would – and who would not – survive into the new era.
After the Singularity humanity bifurcated, splitting into the dozen or so advanced technology-using societies on the one hand, and tribal hunter-gatherers barely distinguishable from animals on the other. Within ZS, the Singularity is usually referred to as “Blackstar” (in reference to a Black Hole, which is a Gravitational Singularity from whose Event Horizon no light can escape; The ultimately influential entity or event), and considered to be the State’s founding event or principle. The technologies spawned by Blackstar ranged from the merely incredible to being far beyond human comprehension, including not only the AIs which govern ZS and other societies, but also means of manipulating the spacetime continuum itself. They are also that which divides the Human from the Posthuman.
A combination of these technologies – AI and temporal manipulation – has given rise to The Basilisk (AKA The Array), which is a kind of hive-mind able to reach into the past (or simulations of it) and pave the way for ZS’ establishment, ensuring (or historicizing) its own future existence. The Zero State Alternate Reality Game (ZS-ARG) is set here and now, and revolves around the Basilisk’s efforts to manipulate early 21st Century events so that it, ZS, and its Citizens may live, contrary to the efforts of others who would prefer that history take a different course…