Falls the Shadow - Prologue
I was too young to remember this city before the wars started. The ones who do remember say it was the greatest city in the world: high education, low crime, good economy. Part of the city—‘The Forgotten Sector’—had already been abandoned during the earlier Technology Boom, when new strides in development made the entire place obsolete. Only the poor, the fugitives, those with nowhere else to go, still lived there.
The rest of the city was a marvel, a crown jewel of human civilization. Imagination and architecture, technology and education, art and science, all came together in the great city: Shandor Rei, the capital of Antolic.
Even though I don’t remember it, that’s how the city was when I left it.
Even if I did remember it, I wouldn’t have recognized it when I came back. Within days of my mother taking me across the border into the neighboring country of Cimarrah, Antolic collapsed into chaos—leading to war.
A scientist experimenting with computer viruses as weapons of war had created a ‘bug’ designed to target Convey-Directs—the single most important source of information and education in the world. C-Ds were a product of the Technology Boom, and over time had come to replace textbooks as the mode of education in schools. By the time the scientist began his virus experiment, C-D technology had developed so far as to have replaced written text itself, transmitting information through a person’s eye and ear directly into their brain.
The theory behind the weapons experiment was that, without education of any kind, the targeted society would crumble, opening the way for complete takeover by an outside force.
It worked. Shandor Rei learned just how accurate the theory was when the virus was released—whether by mistake or design, no one knew—and destroyed every Convey-Direct on the continent.
Within days, riots broke out in the streets. The people stormed Shandor Rei’s municipal buildings, demanding retribution for what had happened. But the government was as helpless as anyone else to counteract the virus, and the scientist responsible for its development had disappeared.
With information relay hampered by the loss of the C-Ds, authorities quickly lost track of the death toll in the melee that followed, with murders, assassinations, and riots claiming dozens of lives every day. The general panic among citizens grew, feeding on itself as passing days brought no sign of the C-Ds being restored to working order. By the time two weeks had passed, scarcely anyone in the Antolican government remained alive, much less in office.
Though Cimarrah had suffered the same crippling loss of the C-Ds as Antolic, her government officials were apparently either more enterprising—or more prepared—than Antolic’s. Shortly after the Antolican government had been completely deposed, Cimarran officials arrived in Shandor Rei with promises of order restored and immediate research begun to reprogram the destroyed C-Ds, provided the riots and violence were stopped.
At first, the citizens complied, and the Cimarran officials established themselves in the place of the fallen Antolican government. But as months passed, no evident progress was made
in restoring the C-Ds. The stirrings of unrest began again among the citizens, finally resulting in another march on the capitol building.
Only this time, the people’s protests were met with government retaliation of unprecedented proportions. Aircraft hovering over the city dropped incendiary bombs on dozens of Shandor Rei’s largest and most essential structures. Buildings burned to skeletons and imploded, spreading flames to other buildings that had escaped the bomb strikes. Bridges collapsed, halting traffic. Transportation tunnels caved in, burying hundreds alive beneath the city streets.
Public outrage withered into embittered desolation following the bombings. The newly established government offered the people no assistance or relief in dealing with the destruction they had unleashed… but there were no more uprisings. They had broken the spirit of Shandor Rei’s people with a single, devastating strike.
Since those days, little has changed. The Cimarran officials who first brought the Antolicans to heel during the Bug Wars have now grown to become The White Tiger—a vast, but practically invisible network of control, espionage, and international political conspiracy.
Shandor Rei remains a shell, a bombed-out, haggard shadow of what she once was. The war’s destruction remains largely unrepaired. Poverty is the new normal in what was once one of the world’s wealthiest cities. And, needless to say, education is largely nonexistent, as no one has yet been able to successfully repair or redesign the C-Ds.
Some have tried—are still trying—to bring back books and written text in education. But books are a rare find any more; what few remained after the Technology Boom were undoubtedly destroyed during the Bug War. Even if a book does surface, it rarely does any good, since people who can actually read them are as rare as the books themselves.
This is the Shandor Rei I came back to, three years ago. This is the Shandor Rei I live and work in.
This is the Shandor Rei where I hope to find answers… though by now I’ve been seeking answers for so long that I sometimes wonder… if I’ve forgotten the original questions.