And in the death, as the last few corpses lay
Rotting on the slimy thoroughfare
The shutters lifted in inches
In Temperance Building high on Poacher's Hill
And red mutant eyes gaze down on Hunger City
No more big wheels.


Future Legend—David Bowie


And the world burned.


With all eyes turned to the constant violence in the Middle East, the madman who led North Korea chose that time to strike. Long ago, North Korea had laid hands on the worst of the smallpox strains—blackpox, the Variola major virus' hemorrhagic expression. It had been sold to them by a disaffected virologist who had worked for Biopreperat in the former Soviet Union. This man had taken home some 'souvenirs' as the wall came down, with an eye to the money to be had in selling them to the highest bidder.


Kim Jong-un handpicked one hundred fanatical people from his vast military, choosing individuals that would obey him without question, violently if need be. He had every one of them infected with blackpox, and as soon as they showed the first symptoms, he had them 'escape' over the border into South Korea. False identification and plane tickets already awaited them, and all of them were put on planes to the United States. Their destinations were many; from Birmingham, Alabama up, the one hundred largest American cities. Once there, weak with sickness and blinded with pain, they proceeded to lick, shit and piss in anything and everything they could, in order to see to it that the virus permeated the nation.


They were all too successful.


It was clear that, though the terrorists were North Korean, the virus had its source in Russia. A terrible shouting match began, as the fanatically right-wing President of the United States began launching recriminations at the two other world leaders. The belligerent Russian President shouted back, much as had happened when Russia chose to annex Crimea. China responded by tightening an economic noose around America's throat, and then going into Taiwan. A conventional confrontation ensued.


The world would never know what prompted it, but something then set off the Launch-On-Warning system that America and Russia still had in place. Someone's finger twitched, and the missiles flew in all three directions. Somehow, saner minds put the brakes on it before all life was seared from the surface of the planet, but the damage was already done. The back of modern civilization was broken, save for isolated pockets, jealously guarded by those in power within them. The rest of humanity languished from exposure, starvation and disease.


For thirty long days, the sun never emerged. The world was blanketed by the trillions of tons of smoke and gases that had been lofted into the atmosphere. The Night of Thirty Days killed yet more people, far more than the smallpox and the nuclear devices. The cold shattered agriculture, froze people alive, and starved the rest. This weakened population was then far more vulnerable to disease. Once again, humanity faced not merely smallpox, but others: cholera, typhus, plague and other diseases once thought to be eradicated.


But there was a yet greater thing to fear.


When exposed to the system of someone that had active or latent metanormal abilities, and then to radiation, smallpox mutated. The phenomenon was far stronger if this person was one that used any form of magic, even the minor religious rituals observed in Neo-Paganism. Its fatality rate drop slightly, but this was small mercy. It still killed ninety percent of those it infected, if they had no access to supportive care, which was the case for most. In hospital, the disease still killed sixty percent of its victims. Those that died of it literally liquefied, the integrity of the body's cells completely breaking down and releasing torrents of infective liquid. Ebola was a fond memory by comparison.


The disease had only one name. Its name... was Syndrome.




Author's Note:

The base storyline and all gamemaster characters involved in it are copyrighted material from a forthcoming novel.