What If... Steampunk Didn't Exist?

a story
2021-09-21 20:41:03,
2021-09-23 22:32:39
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"Time. Space. Reality. It's more than a linear path. It's a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know. I am the Watcher. I am your guide through these vast new realities. Follow me and ponder the question... 'What if?'"

"In the 1980s a science fiction author coined a term for a small subgenre of Victorian fantasy books involving fantastical alternate histories. This throw away term sparked a revolution throughout the 90s and into the turn of the century. An entire genre of science fiction obsessed with the what ifs of a world 100 years old. Fantastical technologies, amazing adventures, and pulp fiction."

"Steampunk inspired hundreds of thousands of artists and writers. With that inspiration came the website and world we now know as the 'Citizens of Antiford'. A world sprung from Victorian Science Fiction and the love of its many users and world builders."

"However... in another reality, the Science Fiction author merely laughed off the term, and it did not catch on. Without a catchy name, the genre died in the early nineties, and Steampunk would never come to be as it is today. However, in its place, films, anime, and subcultures surrounding a different genre would rise. Conventions and storytelling would turn this genre far bigger than it could ever be hoped. And Antiford... would look very different than it does today."

Antiford- 1994. It has been many years since Technocorp completed their merger with the Antiford government. CEO Charlie Button is named the public face of Antiford and speaks for Technocorp's secretive board of directors. A new age of technological advancement sweep the country of Antiford.

The most important of which is the Network. All computers, all machines, all public services are connected by an almighty internet network. To help the working class and poverty cope with the new, technological world they were experiencing, but the increase costs that brought, they created: Optilicus. 

The virtual reality world of Optilicus recreated several real world locations like the vast desert wasteland, the metropolis of Codeford, the sister city of Argenstrath, the city of Astam, and the distant White Oasis in the far deserts.  This virtual space became so heavily used, it even developed its own crypto currency and job market.

However, drowning your life away in a virtual reality is a luxury for a few, as many of the country's lower class are stuck working in factories, retail jobs, and terrible-conditions in the mines during a time of great hyperinflation and wealth inequality as the rich and famous live in exclusive pent houses in skyscraper or in the floating mega-platform community known as 'Serversphere'.

In Serversphere, the elite of elite live peering down at the city of Codeford. They run their empires through social media platforms and Optilicus. Fashion Icons such as Tulio Basit design clothing and digital content without ever leaving the floating community. It is also rumored that private helicopters bring the board of directors to and from the capitol skyscraper for major decisions.

Decent is followed closely by the news outlet Clocksfeed. Protests have begun to rise against Technocorp and at the center of the decent is the elusive underground organization known only as Badg3r. This organization works in the shadows to influence protests and corporate espionage to uncover the darker dealings of Technocorp and attempt to reinstall a democratic system of government.

First off in Badg3r is a man very little is known about. Online he is simply known as 'the Commodore'. As a hacker he is probably mediocre, but his strength has come from his seemingly militaristic gathering and utilizing multiple crews of hackers in a fleet of teams Technocorp has yet to best. On his podcast, 'The Faucet', he challenges users to 'let the knowledge flow' and he is known to provide materials and learning materials to assist the lower classes with survival and raising out of poverty. It is also rumored he is a member of an organization that created Dimitri.IOS, a rogue VPN designed to protect and store information on a world-wide network of servers to help protect and distribute 'banned content' worldwide.

Next in the organization is a woman known by many names. User ABC.123 inherited their account from an unknown person. Using their connections, they have been reaping vengeance on the upper class of Antiford and those that encroach on her drug empire. By day, they are a pharmaceutical sales representative and sell a variety of drugs out of their dispensary in Downtown Saks. They are assisted by their Vibranni hacker, Dimitri, who is also a recovering drug addict who is notorious for falling off the rails. By night, ABC.123 distributes a variety of known party drugs at clubs, parties, galas, and anywhere else they are invited. However, when it comes time to make the kill, they distribute a drug only known as 'Worms'. The drug is so violent, those dying of it claim their insides are squirming as if worms were eating them alive. It's even known to cause people to claw their own eyes out. It is a single use poison, and only a handful have survived it before dying from massive withdrawal symptoms. She is Badg3r's mistress of the slums as well as key to many of the more exclusive clubs, including those in 'Serversphere'.

Lastly, you cannot go anywhere in Antiford without seeing billboards. City skylines. Monorail lines. Highways. There are billboards everywhere. And a common sight on them are the ads and videos of Bobbie Buford and his amazing robots. The head of artificial intelligence in world and the steve jobs of Antiford, Lucas M Buford sells robots, gadgets, and devices such as the Script Scroll (a tablet). His avatar has become the mascot for the massive company, Bobbie Buford, a Willy Wonka esque young man in a top hat and always showing off the latest models or devices.  In reality, Lucas M Buford is an injured older man who has augmented his body heavily. He helps Badg3r with keeping their communications secretive and protected as well as integrating their tech with his custom OS system, the Buford Organized Bionics. This system installs an A.I. Assistant, Adelle, and helps Badg3r agents with their operations.

In this digital age, none can tell who has access to your digital data. It is for that reason a network of runners are employed to swiftly get messages, files, and packages from point A to point B. Among these free runners is one named Annabelle Bardeneen. She has a rough history with the law, and struggles to just get by, but she is a good free runner and can often escape any pursuers while delivering packages. 

Although, not everyone is running from the law. Leo Swift has made a career for themselves as an independent Bounty Hunter. However, they made a name for themselves after they began streaming their operations on many social media platforms, including the Ticking Tok and Optillifeed. His adventures took the public by storm, and he's become a wild online personality taking down wanted fugitives. Although most of his arrests are not big time, some of his legendary take downs are watched an analyzed all around the globe. Along with his charming personality, he also has his crew who assist him with his operations who have become minorly internet famous as well. Leo Swift dreams of being a pilot, and self teaches himself on drone craft and simulations in his free time.

Down on his luck, often drunk, the Private Investigator Alexander Nolan has been kicked out of every dive bar in Eastern Antiford. Unable to win a visa into the White Oasis, he wound up in the city equivalent of a dive bar. With his partner, Rilain, a Vibranni, they take odd cases solving crimes in the lawless city of Conwell. Suspended over the Prodigious Canyon, this city houses all the dirtiest of the dirty. Hackers, Sea Pirates, Biker Gangs, and murderers. Nolan is haunted by a computer virus in his augmentations that causes him to see a squid-like hologram that rarely communicates to him. Rilain tries to keep them from total bankruptcy and basically runs the PI Office.

Erik Vonkresser, latest in the long line of Vonkresser's, was victim of a revolution in his country of Prush. With the new Technocracy ruling, he was angered and decided to rise against them and take back his homeland. Augmenting the poor and the willing beyond human recognition, he used these troops to stage a counter-coup and win back control of his homeland. Once installed as dictator, he refused to help his mecha-soldiers convert back into citizens, and now controls Prush under the cold gaze of cybernetic slaves.

Back in Antiford, a poor, Sorditudo miner named Joel Arnett happened upon  a set of code given to him by a mysterious user of L.T. Flint. Technocorp eventually banned this user and they were lost to them forever, but the code they passed onto Arnett was alive and well in Arnett's laptop. Escaping capture by police, this hacker now fights against corporate injustice around Antiford with his new program Scorp.IOS. He has been known to attack and orchestrate take downs of other, criminal hacker organizations as well as actually do battle against gangs in the real world. Him and his hacking program only get more powerful as he learns to understand it better and write his own code to alter it to be stronger. He drives around Antiford in an antic car that still runs on fossil fuel and is liable to break down.

In this digital age, it's easy to get lost in search terms and ads. However, a few prefer older means, and that's where Theodore Emilio Beam operates. Working for the Codeford library, he keeps physical record of all things and books. He also has done his best to keep a digital library of physical classics in Optilicus, and make that available to users who wish to. His efforts to digitize these old classics are believed to mean they will survive in digital form long past their physical counterparts have rotted away.

With plenty of experience working in the archives at Hjem, Titania; Astrid was destined for greatness when she was offered to work with the world renown OBPF (Oarr Borderless Police Force) based out of Argenstrath. However, she quickly found herself in financial trouble, and enthralled with an activist 'witch coven' fighting for environmental rights. In the end, she had to accept a job with the local organized crime as a "paperhanger" making counterfeit ID cards. She tries to balance her newfound understanding of the mob life with her friendships at the OBPF and her dream of working full-time back home at the Hjem Server Archives. Her online avatar is the mythical beast: The Moon-faced cave bear.

Out in the old suburbs of Argenstrath, a club unlike any other rages on, and it's private party servers keep the party going digitally for any who need it. The owner of this dance club? Serena Delgado, trust fund kid. After her parents died, her and her brother were left keeping the family business going. However, when Nestor went missing, she began a ruthless search for him throughout the shady underground and corrupt elite. Known simply as the 'Baroness', she runs a furry club and rave house out of her converted mansion. She uses the connections that are made there to build a complex network of resources she then uses to fight her way through the country for clues as to the disappearance of her brother.

Ely Ograg is a simple businessman running an internet café out of Astam City. However, online they host meetings of a digital witch coven and attempt to fight and hack against big industries polluting nature and the ecosystem. They sometimes allow their café to be used for in-person meetings.

Horatio Morlock is a hacker extraordinaire. Using his team as well as his own skills, he specializes in retrieval of files and information from secure systems and delivering them to a client for cash. He especially made a name for himself because he is not afraid to get up close and personal with said hacks, and can break onto sites to steal data from in-network devices. His weapon of choice is his augmented arm with built-in railgun. He and his team also make use of jet packs, earning the name from other hacker groups as "Magicians of the Sky" or simply "The Magicians" for short.