The 21st century has been hard for humanity. Total ecological collapse across much of the world has brought humanity to the brink. Temperatures have risen worldwide, raising sea levels as the polar ice melts, turning the tropics into vast, barren deserts, sending species extinction rates skyrocketing, and beginning to unravel many of the regulating mechanisms in the environment. Resource exhaustion, pollution, the release of persistent hormone-mimicking chemicals into the environment – disrupting the development of plants and animals – and the wild weather resulting from pumping thermal energy into the seas and atmosphere have added to the chaos.
Humanity – and civilization – has managed to survive despite the turmoil. The hopes that nuclear fusion would provide a future of nearly free clean energy have been disappointed; in a substantial minority of individual fusion reactions a super-symmetric transformation occurs (an effect closely related to the “Warp” or “Casamir” Points of Core), allowing the energy released to effectively vanish from the reactor, only to reappear at random points within a few hundred feet – subjecting the area, and any equipment or persons therein, to a steady flux of high energy radiation. Curiously, active psionic brains in the area tend to “ground” a fair amount of the energy release, offering some hope to researchers looking for a means to contain fusion energies OTHER than a thousand feet of shielding (such as the convection layer of a star). Sadly, however, no artificial “ground” has worked yet, and no practical application for being able to use a hundred-million dollar industrial facility to slowly damage the brains of nearby psychics has been found yet.
With the failure of fusion power, humanity has had to resort to widespread fission systems and Casimir systems to generate it’s power needs. While geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind turbine systems continue to make modest contributions, such sources simply cannot supply the power density needed to support an industrial civilization. Battles over fissionable material rights have become all too common, although nuclear weapon proliferation has dropped significantly. Fissionable material is too valuable to just blow it up.
With the ongoing – and possibly accelerating – collapse of the ecosystem and the ever-increasing atmospheric disturbances, the worlds cities have gradually become isolated fortresses against the environment. Most of the larger ones have become completely enclosed environments of their own, gradually metamorphosing into full-blown, self-contained, arcologies. Highways and roads were gradually replaced with high speed electrical trains connecting the cities together. The coastal cities are now either abandoned, partially underwater, or have walled off the ocean from the urban interior. Lack of fresh water has made major recycling and desalination operations economical for most population centers – further increasing the demands for power.
With the destruction of the major forests and plankton die-offs, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at record highs for documented history. A measurable drop in oxygen levels has also begun in recent years, and is provoking serious alarm. Calls to look into geo-engineering solutions towards maintaining atmospheric composition are gaining momentum. Talks of artificially stimulating the water cycle have also been proposed – albeit with fewer backers.
Farming has largely moved indoors to large multistoried hydroponic farms and vat grown meat. Food production centers now occupy a significant amount of the urban real estate. Diseases have dropped dramatically as human contact with most animals and other infection vectors has ceased and the full isolation of infected sectors has become practical. Most of the large animals and plants now only exist either in zoos or as pets. A concerted last minute effort to collect DNA samples from as many species as possible before they went extinct had only moderate success. While there are rumors of animal mutants – including illusion-spinning urban wolves, hive-intelligence colonies of “devil rats”, and techno-tinkering raccoons, they’re probably nothing more than urban legends.
Politically, the world has been consolidating into Federated States – a process that has become easier and easier as life outside the urban arcologies becomes more and more difficult. The current groups include the North American Union, the European Union, the South American Union, the Arabic League, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Democratic Provinces of China, the Confederation of Indian States, the African Union, and the Pacific Alliance of Free States. The various states of Antarctica and the Free Colonies of the Luna System are currently relatively minor powers, although they may achieve major power status in the coming years.
Space development has begun to accelerate in the last several decades. The construction of the three orbital towers, one each in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, has led to cheap access to space at levels far cheaper than possible before – and running room-temperature superconducting strands up them has provided the major new energy sources in a generation, although the massive physical and energy investments needed to build the towers and create the transuranic elements needed to dope the superconductors has greatly slowed the bootstrap potential of the process.
Earth’s moon is being colonized with the hope that helium-3, space conditions, and massive empty areas might make fusion systems practical. Several precious metal rich asteroids have also been moved into Earth orbit. The Moon has been making efforts towards being self-sustaining by bringing in comets full of volatiles into lunar orbit. A growing faction there is working to consolidate political power and declare independence from Earth. The ties with Earth are still strong however, especially since the orbital towers can be used as railguns; by varying the speed, deflecting the capsules a bit at the end, and employing a mere touch of thrust, the three towers can keep a continuous stream of traffic moving from the earth to the moon – to be caught by similar systems there. The passage time does vary substantially, but that simply means scheduling the less-urgent cargo for the longer trajectories.
Human genetic variation has exploded with the development of genetic engineering and artificial genomes in the previous centuries. Couples wanting or expecting a child are now required by law in most regions to have genetic compatibility tests. Incompatible people can have a bioengineering company sanitize the resulting genome for a fee. Efforts are currently underway to generate a series of standards to ensure compatibility for genetic modifications.
Military engineering hasn’t exactly plateaued – but much of it would be recognizable to natives of the late 20’th century. High-energy synthetic fuels, fuel cells, and power-storage systems can still deliver power more compactly and more quickly than small-scale fission systems, while casamir systems remain impossibly bulky and low-powered. With limited energy supplies, force fields and negative-energy fields are useful – but they are better at detonating incoming missiles before actual contact or at allowing stealth than at acting as armor on their own for smaller vehicles. Similarly, energy weapons are usually chemically pumped – leading to relatively limited use of lasers and plasmas, with far more use of railguns and explosives.
Thus, in Inversion, large-scale military vehicles have serious physical structures, heavy physical armor, defensive weaponry, and fission plants to back relatively weak shields. The age of major naval vessels and main battle tanks is not yet over. The lack of fusion thrusters and the power to generate force-field drive mechanisms means that helicopters, jets, and similar vehicles still fly – even if the fuel shortages limit their deployment.
Antimatter is known (in fact, the lunar colonies are developing an antimatter-powered and -armed warship, with the powerful shields and mach drive systems that a compact power source coupled with force fields and negative energy systems make possible). Unfortunately, as always, antimatter is very expensive to make – requiring the expenditure of considerably more energy than can be gotten back out of it. It will never be an effective civilian power source unless some “cheap” source of antimatter can be found.
On top of all of this has been the appearance of the Landsknechts at the end of the 21st century. No one knows what causes someone to become a Landsknecht, only that a small section of the population appears to have the power. Able to manipulate Keith-Erisson fields without the need for machinery, even the weakest Landsknecht is a match for a small armored vehicle. Several have managed to use their powers to establish minor fiefdoms (which often serve as flashpoints in the ongoing – if small scale – resource wars) while others have used their abilities to demand positions within the Federated States. Still others try to use their power to police the others and help the people where they can. The discovery that a Landsknecht can improve the power output of a Casimir system by focusing their abilities on it for a time was meant to herald an era of social responsibility, only to find that it only increased the demands of the Landsknecht for favors in exchange for helping maintain the power systems society has become dependent on.
Psychics in Inversion can use both Witchcraft and Psionics – and any kind of psychic can use the same super-symmetric links that make them vulnerable to stray energies released by fusion processes to both extend the range of their powers – usually by a factor of about five – and to tap into external energies (according to some theorists, the background of lower-level energies provided by the massed fusion reactions of the stars of the galaxy) to either amplify the effects of their powers (double effect) or to reduce the drain on their personal energies (half cost). Such energies can also be channeled into Casamir systems to increase their power output – an application that, being externally-focused, seems to have no effect on the user beyond demanding a bit of concentration.
Sadly, while the effects noted above are easily observable, there is as yet no way to confirm the theory. It would, however, help explain why so many high-level psychics either possess advanced regenerative talents or are a bit mad; using such energies to boost your personal powers involves channeling them through your own brain – which can be a bit hard on it.
In addition, many of Inversion’s psychics (and almost all of the ones who survive for long) learn to either encase themselves in a semi-permanent psychic construct (normally requiring access to a high-level summon psychic construct effect and an immunity to the usual duration limit which works as long as the psychic is “wearing” the construct).
Visiting psychics may freely take advantage of the range boost, but learning to channel external energies is considerably more difficult; the trick counts as a major privilege (although it can be acquired through an appropriate identity). Magic generally does not work in Inversion, although the realm is reasonably obliging about translating personal magical effects that could reasonably be explained as psychic powers into psychic powers.
Inversion was a science fiction series of movies, books, games and other media dating to the 22nd century. Considered at the time to be on par with such franchises from earlier centuries such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, it defined a generation of pop culture for some time and influences can still be seen in Core to this day.
The series was especially notable at the time for it’s hard science background and it’s portrayal of a very different version of Earth. Inversion incorporated the latest discoveries in physics available at the time including psionics, Keith-Erisson fields, and Casimir systems. One of the crucial (and intentional according to the writer) deviations from Core science was the lack of viable fusion systems. While no official canonical explanation was ever provided for such failures, enough odd facts about the failures were provided throughout the various books to provide some pretty good theories – even if they focused more on what was happening then on why or how it could be possible.
As always, later installments in the franchise explored more of the background elements of the Inversion world, centered on what were originally minor characters from the first trilogy, and introduced their own elements. The popularity of the series began to wane as the revived Star Wars franchise began to instill wonder in yet another new generation. Nevertheless, Inversion still has fans and the occasional new installment is produced from time to time in Core today.
Out in the Manifold, of course, the souls of fans have established Inversion as one of the more “real” – or perhaps vital – worlds.