And so it came to pass

It's been fifty-eight years since our world changed almost beyond recognition.

Nearly half a century of what should be called progress, and we're all still trapped on the merry-go-round of oppression, prejudice, destruction and survival. As a people, we innovate and create for money rather than the pure pleasure of bringing something new into the world. We seem more willing than ever to climb to the top of the heap over the backs of our fellow man. Rather than using technology to improve the lot of mankind, we've allowed it to separate us even further from each other. If we ever did have a golden age, we somehow slid past it without gaining anything lasting or important.

My name is Captain Chaos, and I'm having a bad day.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm the sysop of Shadowland, a next-generation BBS based in Seattle. If that description doesn't help, think of Shadowland as a sort of branch library of the Denver Data Haven—the North American nexus of information, assistance and data exchange, free to anyone who can find it.

And that's precisely my problem today. I've spent years collating and posting other people's adventures, advice and anecdotes to this board, and it's been a pretty informative and entertaining time. We've managed to save a lot of people a lot of trouble in one way or another, and that's a pretty satisfying accomplishment to have attached to your name. Unfortunately, not everyone understands what we're here for, and not everyone who finds their way into the nexus knows how to handle what they find. So you occasionally have to accept the sorry fate of newbies who find a way to self-destruct despite the guidance of their elders—and the two soft-shells who crashed and burned in the Matrix less than two hours ago represent prime examples of what happens to people with too much money and too little knowledge.

So today I'm going to take advantage of my position and use Shadowland to post my own favorite rant, without interruptions. The topic is the world we live in and how it got that way. The justification is that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it—and I'm tired of them repeating it on my board. Pardon my attitude, but I'm not going to pull any punches here.

In the Sixth World, multinational megacorps pull the world's puppet-strings to benefit their bottom lines—and shadowrunners, folks living on the edge like you and me, do the corps' dirty work for pay. These days, survival means working the shadows; you've got to be willing to lie, steal and kill to stay alive. The technology we depend on doesn't bring us together. Worldwide communications net? Great idea, but not much use when half the population is zoned out on simsense chips and the rest can't access a working dataterminal in the slums where they're forced to live. The rich have gotten richer and the poor a lot more plentiful, so the wealthy barricade themselves in armed enclaves and leave the rest of us to squat and rot. Large chunks of our planet are dying, swallowed by urban sprawl or choked to death by corp polluters. There's still green wilderness in some places, lots of it restored by magic—but I can't see much of it from the sprawl where I live, and neither can hundreds of thousands like me.

And then there's the return of magic, which really turned things upside down. The destructive power of the Great Ghost Dance, the shock of watching loved ones turn into trolls, real live dragons showing up on the evening trid—all that and more now are part of our everyday life.

Some people might say we're back on track, back into our usual happy routine of slowly destroying ourselves and everything around us. But that's a load of drek. In the last century, do you think people considered installing direct neural implants in their bodies for job security, or had to worry about a neighbor incinerating them with a fireball over a parking dispute? You think they suffered anything comparable to the trauma of goblinizing into something their own families considered a beast? Did they worry about getting brain-fried if they wandered into the wrong end of a computer network, or that some astral peeping-tom might be watching what they were doing in the bedroom? Could they vote for a fragging dragon for President?

A lot of things have changed, but some things are still the same. Big business will still screw you as soon as look at you, and for those of us not working for the corps, crime is our meal ticket.

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