Vancoufur: Neon City Prologue

by Jay "Shirou" Coughlan

In 20X0 the megacorporations of Neon City released a firmware update to all users. Anything electronic, including biotech limbs, computers, brain-implants, net-ports, and more, received this update and installed it automatically regardless of user-settings. Hidden in this update was a toxic virus. The update confirmed if the software's anti-piracy protocols were valid, or if the hardware had been modified. They were looking for users of the Dark-Net, the black market of online interaction and sales, the counterpart to the corporate sanctioned and monitored Net most people used. If the user was connected to the Dark-Net, or the device had been pirated or modified against the company’s terms of service, the virus was unleashed to corrupt the system.

What the megacorps didn't expect was the sheer number of users who fell under these conditions unwittingly.

The virus affected most of the population and corrupted an immeasurable amount of chrome and tech. Anyone with direct brain implants got the worst of it; an explosive headache for days if they were lucky. Many were not lucky. Some still haven't recovered.

In 20X1 the culture war began. The Corp's actions incited riots, threats, and violence. Anyone perceived as being in a corp's pocket was at risk, and the workforce was abandoning their cushy office jobs at an alarming rate. The private security force, Cerberus Security, tried to handle the riots and take out the more disruptive members before a revolution could begin. 

The government tried to be a neutral party between the citizens and the mega-corps, but they were ineffective. It was a well-known secret that the government was well funded by the mega-corps, and any compromise they promised to make would be heavily in the favour of the rich and elite.

Protests filled the streets, disappearances became commonplace, and the Dark-Net was more prevalent than ever. Runners became the agents of the people, stealing intel and sabotaging the corps efforts for control. Gangs became the army of civilians, defending against Cerberus's forces. Out of this chaos the radical anti-corporate gang, Net Zero, rose to prominence, taking over large sections of the city, driving Cerberus out of the streets and back to their masters. 

From the chaos thrived the Offlines; businesses that sold bootleg chrome, jailbroken software, weapons smuggling, false identities, and drugs that would make your head spin. It was a predatory market and it showed its fangs often. They sowed their seeds in the blood-soaked soil the mega-corps had created. They thrived in the dark alleys and shaded corners, out of sight growing more and more powerful with each day. Some suspected the corps themselves were behind these markets, others saw them as a blight preying on the needs of the people. No one saw any other choice, though, it was either this or succumb to the might of the corps.

Meanwhile, the elite sat in their ivory penthouses and watched the carnage below. Safe in their silk sheets and expensive wines. Attempts were constantly made on their lives, but they remained content to stay in their castles and let Cerberus handle the riff-raff.

Until they failed. 

With Cerberus spread thin with the constant riots and protests the then CEO of the Turn Corporation, Matthew Robertson was murdered. After him came the spokesperson for Avia Technologies Veronica Richards, and after them, several upper-level regional managers from various corporations and subsidiaries were either killed or kidnapped. Their whole illusion of security was shattered.

The fighting stopped almost overnight. The white flag was raised and negotiations began. Those who had gained a following and leadership during the war met with the remaining elites to make their demands. The old money was stiff, hesitant to give more than the bare minimum, but the tides were no longer in their favour. Net Zero was equally as stubborn in their own position, demanding all the corporations were completely dissolved, with all assets returned to the people. They were quickly removed for being too difficult to work with.

After weeks of negotiations and cease-fires, terms were eventually agreed on. Cerberus was disbanded and a new security service was started under the leadership of Kincaid McLaughlan, a wolf with a strict anti-corruption position and kindness towards the citizens of Neon City. While the corporations weren’t dissolved, they were required to pay for cleanup and repair to the city, and new pro-competition legislation was put into place.

Finally, the Neon City Betterment Association, or NCBA, was created; a panel of representatives from the community and the corps with the goal of keeping the peace between the corps and the people. Together the NCBA created the Vancoufur convention as a celebration of this peace. Corps provide resources and funds to the convention, while civilians donate their time and skills to running the event. There are panels to share knowledge and technology, corps set up demo booths for their newest and greatest products, and the ticket proceeds go to the NCBA to help with other projects around Neon City.

Net Zero never gave up on their goals, and the Offline markets kept their roots firmly dug into the underbelly of the city. Corruption had gone down, but there was always someone looking to climb their way up the corporate chain using any means necessary, and corporations were always eager to play their games to gather as much money as they could. Things are better, but so long as a Corp is looking to line their pockets, Runners will always have a job in the shadows.

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