A few years ago, Ed and I started "working" on a game with a German PhD student named Boris. The game was meant to be called Castle America. At the time, I wrote a very short history of the game's universe from the proverbial "current day" to the opening of the game. You can read it below.
By mid-21st century designer life forms became commonplace and served many purposes, both utilitarian and vain. They were mostly proprietary single-cell organisms ranging from carbon monoxide neutralizing bacteria to wrinkle smoothing fungus1. Due to a rather successful bacterial climate and pollution level control coupled with ever more efficient and economical internal combustion engines, the usage of fossil fuels was declining much slower than anticipated at the turn of the century. The solar power research was all but abandoned as the fresh air returned to urban centres and it seemed that being able to drive for two months on a full tank meant that oil would never run out.
In 2057, Viltran, an American corporation specializing in materials research and production, successfully introduced a plastic eating bacteria that was meant to solve the plastic recycling problem. The new life form was based on a nylon eating Flavobacterium K172 that was discovered about 80 years before and had once been the poster child of evolution. PEB quickly become a media darling – it's ATI2 peaking at 10K RPS3. Pebbies, as they soon were called, depolymerized plastic at record rates and turned it into a glucose like monomer that resembled white ash.
PEB, like almost any other designer bacteria, was hardcoded to die after one week no matter how favourable the conditions and would multiply only once – their offspring were barren. All of this changed after what came to be known as the Maastricht Outbreak of 2058 when in a newly inaugurated bacterial recycling plant one of the Pebbies' offspring inscrutably mutated the barren code out of itself. When the custodian droids whose job it was to collect the waste monomer didn't return from the consumption chamber, the human staff went in to investigate. They found lifeless droid hulls stripped of all plastic and covered in white ash. All precautions were said to have been applied but the new strain somehow got out. What followed was a mass extinction event on molecular level.
The nations scrambled in panic to stop the epidemic that was rapidly and irreversibly eroding the very cogs that kept the society going but things only got worse. The Plastic Rot, also called The Great White Plague, became the Oil Rot. Through additional series of mutations the Pebbies developed a taste for the very source of plastic. As is the wont of humankind, in times of great trouble and grave danger we turn to our brother's throat. Armies moved in to take control of uncontaminated oil reserves disregarding national borders and international agreements. The bloodshed that followed was only tempered by the rapidly disintegrating military technology. USA who had been secretly developing SBSP4 technology for two decades activated the program which gave it an enormous edge in energy production. Two days later China retaliated by crashing all of its zombie satellites into the American ones, thus bringing about true a Kessler Syndrome and perhaps forever denying humanity space travel.
It is estimated that around 30 million people died in the Oil Wars that followed the outbreak. In the next two years, 90% of human population perished due to starvation, poor sanitation and exposure. Before driving itself to extinction, Pebbies are thought to have destroyed 95% of oil and its byproducts.
The date is 2098. The remains of human civilization are sheltered in walled-in city states known as the Murrs. Most of the Murrs practice very strict immigration policy while reluctantly trading with the dwellers of the wilderness. Chunks of plastic have superseded all competing currencies – the affluent elite of the apocalypse wears it as jewellery and good luck charms. The non-citizenry that lives outside the walls consists of nomadic hunter-gatherers and bandits.
1 Most multi-cellular artificial organisms remained unstable, though a Korean company briefly tried to market affordable glow-in-the -dark kittens. The whole affair folded quite quickly after it became clear that the kittens only lived three to four weeks before succumbing to a rather grotesque form of cancer.
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4Space-based solar power