Summary: After a solar flare wrecked the northern hemisphere, Southeast Asia's Cerulean Initiative is the last, best hope to save humanity.
At some point in the not so distant future, a solar flare strikes the northern hemisphere. Sunfall caused disorder and collapse among the the world's largest economies. The disorder was not merely economic, political, and technical, but also environmental. Synthetic organisms, synthorgs, designed to repair broken ecologies or as industrial machinery, mutated beyond their original roles. In addition to rampaging robots, marauding pirates, and criminal syndicates, these mutant organisms expanded unchecked.
Only one multi-national organization survived with some degree of stability: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations. From ASEAN came the Cerulean Initiative, a non-profit organization tasked with exploration, preservation, and research into the altered environment. As researchers and explorers, they were tasked with documenting the past, managing the present, and planning a better future. Aided by beneficial artificial intelligences and cutting-edge technology, the Cerulean Initiative needs heroes.
Are you one of them?
The Cerulean Initiative
The Cerulean Initiative is primarily based in Singapore, although it has branches across Southeast Asia and beyond. The name comes from the color of an unmarred sea and sky, and the organization's eventual goal of environmental restoration. The organization is a registered non-profit in all ASEAN states and many others, cleared to carry out its duties, although there can be local resistance. The organization is headed by a Director, elected annually by all members at a general meeting. The current Director is the former Indonesian diplomat, Karol Kartini.
Beneath the Director are specialized departments. While the Initiative was originally focused on environmental restoration, it has assimilated other duties over the years. These departments include: the Economic Development Bureau, the Regional Archeological Survey, the Biodiversity Preservation Initiative, the Advanced Research Office, and the Field Security Taskforce. The Economic Development Bureau (EDEV) focuses on rebuilding business ties in communities large and small. The Regional Archeological Survey (RAS) aims to document and preserve historical sites from vandals and looters. The Biodiversity Preservation Initiative (BIPI) focuses on protecting endangered species or removing invasive ones, often from poachers, synthorgs, and mutants. The Advanced Research Office (ARO) brings tests new technology in the field for stress testing. The Field Security Taskforce (FIST) aims to provide defensive training, tactics, and tools to vulnerable areas, protecting personnel and assets when necessary.
The leader of each department is selected by its constituent members. Candidates must have at least five years' experience in the organization to be nominated. The current head of EDEV is the Cambodian extreme tourism entrepreneur Jay Samnang, a noted adrenaline junkie and off-road driver. The current head of RAS is Prayut Juntong, a former Royal Thai Police officer that defended the Bangkok National Museum during Sunfall. The current head of BIPI is Nguyen Thuy-Anh, who waged a one-woman war against the poachers that burnt her home. The current head of ARO is Dr. Arun Patel, a former aerospace engineer with the Indian Space Research Organization. The current head of FIST is Nasrudin Razak, a former Malaysian naval officer and security contractor.
The World Before
Before Sunfall, Earth seemed progressively less relevant. Offworld colonization efforts, including Mars, Venus, Luna, and the outer system, was beginning. Transhumanist technologies were widely available to the public. While ecological damage had been done, self-replicating robots and artificial organisms had greatly helped to mitigate the damage. Most heavy industries had been moved into Earth orbit, including asteroid mining. Cheap solar synthesizers made food, water, and energy accessible to even the poorest on Earth. Artificially intelligent assistants democratized access to law, medicine, and engineering. Then Sunfall happened.
It was similar to the Carrington Event of 1859, but far more severe. A gigantic coronal mass ejection struck the northern hemisphere, resulting in a geomagnetic storm that devastated infrastructure in the world's most populous half. Nuclear plants melted down. Power lines burst into flame. Communications satellites and orbital infrastructure collided, creating a runaway cascade of debris that blocked launches. Cities collapsed into desperate riots, while governments struggled to hold on. In the Southern Hemisphere, the resultant economic collapse toppled or overextended the largest governments.
Southeast Asia largely survived intact for a few reasons. One was that Sunfall primarily struck North America, Europe, and Central Asia. The second was the geography. Refugees fled towards the southern hemisphere, but those heading to Southeast Asia had to pass through India, China, jungles, Himalayas, and well-patrolled seas. Southeast Asia lacked the major military buildups of the larger, northern hemisphere states, so their means to wage war upon each other were limited. The presence of malfunctioning synthorgs and terraforming robots also reaped a bloody toll on those traveling into the region, as the Straits of Malacca was a major transit route between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, the disaster played an integral part in bringing the region together.
Lifestyles in Southeast Asia vary greatly with region and society. People inhabitant high tech cities, remote villages, and life on self-sufficient convoys and flotillas. The presence of the Blockade of orbital debris renders offworld access difficult, but not impossible. However, the inhabitants of Southeast Asia broadly fall into urban, rural, and nomadic existences. The extent that Sunfall affected their lives was profound, but more developed regions were generally more affected by it.
The cities of Southeast Asia range from high-tech metropoli to ravaged sprawl. Most fall somewhere in between. Sunfall ravaged cities with smart infrastructure, leading to infrastructural and institutional failures that killed thousands. For a time, this lead to people fleeing the cities for rural areas. In the time since then, there has been a slow trickle of people heading back into the cities.
In modern urban areas, both manual labor and automation are more deftly managed. Human overseers employ teams of small, non-sentient robots, but they often must be able to physically conduct tasks if they cannot. Due to memories of Sunfall, many cities have reverted to cheap manual labor of migrants trickling in from the countryside or abroad. Metro and light rail are common, and electric and hybrid buses dominant public transit on roads. Automated smart car taxis are present, and often included as a subscription service to residents in private housing. Old fashioned petroleum vehicles still exist, mostly in rural regions, and even primarily they use solar-generated synthetic fuels. While most vehicles are automated, some have space for a human operator, a feature that has been retained since Sunfall.
Even affluent, secure cities like Singapore are threatened by the post Sunfall boom in synthorgs. A significant portion of the urban population is armed, often with light melee weapons or pistols, due to the sheer adaptability and shock that rogue synthorgs represent. Weapons regulations are often strictest in affluent cities, with AI-assisted forms and 'advisors' detailing such laws, and the very strict penalties for non-compliance. Some cities take a less strict or even non-existent approach, depending on the severity of security, synthorg types, corruption, and other factors.
Rural areas have seen a renaissance even prior to Sunfall. The development of cheap solar synthesizers, devices able to cheaply make food, power, fuel, and electricity from water condensation and atmospheric CO2, enabled true self-sufficiency for millions in the developing world. Rural areas were not as badly hit during Sunfall, although there were still challenges.
The damage to central states and authority enabled a rise in crime and irregular warfare. Pirates, poachers, and guerilla groups exploited the scattered, disorganized state of global governance. Ecological restoration efforts were underway even before Sunfall, including the use of synthorgs to clean up pollution (often from petrochemicals and plastics). Many of those efforts are only now being resumed, although aberrant synthorgs and opportunistic criminal factions (and corrupt officials on their payroll) hinder this.
Rural settlements range from small villages, to holdout bunkers of the elite, to small cities, to even isolated hermits. Some continue living as they have done for centuries, with only a few changes. Others are centers of cottage industry, using their isolation to develop new genetic engineered crops or robotic prototypes away from the prying eyes of the authorities. Corporations have purchased many abandoned resorts and facilities, often turning them into covert labs. These enclaves are often well protected, but even they suffer incursions from human and inhuman intruders.
Most of the population is settled, but up to a third of the population of Southeast Asia is nomadic. The solar synthesizer technology used in rural areas can also be fitted on aircraft, vehicles, and watercraft. This has enabled small roving settlements of all descriptions, although they are not always welcomed. One community may welcome the economic boost of a nomad arrival, while its neighboring town many spurn them.
The most famous example is the Flotilla, a ramshackle armada gathered around an old research vessel called the Guanyin. During Sunfall, it became the hub of a rescue effort. It has since grown, and it travels the world, performing oceanographic research. Smaller fleets of fishermen often travel with their intended catch based on the seasons, moving in numbers to avoid pirates.
The Caravan is a group of mobile homeowners that drive from Singapore to India to Vietnam, completing regular circuits once a year. The Caravan offers sanctuary to many seeking to avoid their past, but they often turn over violent or troublesome members to local authorities. They have found themselves targeted by organized militias and gangs, but these are consistently driven off. Many members only join them for a small leg of their circuit, since they provide safety and security.
In post-Sunfall Southeast Asia, people have professions drastically altered by automation. While many of the same jobs exist, managing utility robots is required. Even lawyers have 'chatbot' assistants handling the majority of their tasks. Most modern pilots are kept as standbys, in case of (rare) artificial intelligence failures. Since Sunfall, manual labor has seen a limited resurgence in certain sectors, such as mining, farming, and maintenance. Due to the complex needs of modern societies, it is not uncommon for someone to have multiple small jobs, rather than exclusive full-time employment. Most people come into jobs through friends, family, neighbors, classmates, and past colleagues, and those categories frequently overlap, perhaps more than the past.
Credentialed professions still exist, but are far less exclusive than the past. Strong, reliable artificial intelligence has greatly democratized access to those areas: medicine, law, education, engineering, and even research. Most accrediting bodies recognize practical experience as well as education, although most rely on a combination. For example, a surgeon from medical school and a military medic might both be permitted to treat the same condition in the same patient, so long as their training and experiences are similar.
Most countries offer a free, online, and AI-based curriculum for students in rural areas or unable to physically attend. Developments in educational psychology involve more gamified lessons of basic fields, such as arithmetic and language composition. Primary and secondary schooling is mandatory, although with more student control over course selection and learning style. "Micro-credentialling" online courses exist, and they are primarily used in practical trades. Universities still exist, although their structure and function has changed. They are primarily research hubs, offering specialized coursework that cannot be easily taught online.
Recreation is far more than professional sports and videogames, and for many, work and school overlap with it. The use of 'gamification' has become a design for many devices, trades, and lessons, although more traditional sources exist. There are still books, movies, non-augmented reality video games, and tabletop games. However, the use of augmented reality and strong AI has enabled far more realistic non-player characters, from non-player characters in roleplaying games to other players at the table. Athletic pursuits have also benefitted.
Physical sports have similarly benefited through the use of nanoswarms and hard light holograms, enabling entire teams to be conjured from the either. From ultra-realistic firefights to a simple game of chess to living in historical drama, there are overwhelming sources of recreation. A controversial recent trend is generating an AI simulacrum through historic footage of famous martial artists, Olympians, or celebrities, and competing against it. Games simulating battling hostile synthorgs, however, are popular across Southeast Asia.
Many close friends, lovers, and colleagues all trace their roots to surviving together during Sunfall. Family and domestic situations have changed relative to the past. Most humans are born the 'conventional way,' but artificial womb technology has made ectogenesis accessible. Due to widespread use of senolytics, memory uploading, and cybernetic bodies, lifespans have been increased by decades (or perhaps more, according to some estimates). Traditional marriages and families (in the sense of two, sometimes more partners) are common across Southeast Asia, primarily in rural areas. However, all manner of relationships exist, sometimes complicated due to unique transhuman entities.
The idea of a person as a single being in a single body is seen as a pre-Sunfall abstraction, challenged by new developments. For example, two partners shared a consciousness over wireless communications, falling into depression when cut off. A dead engineer uploaded his memories and personality to a variety of cloned and artificial bodies, to form a family of mind. Voluntary hive minds or distributed consciousness over drone swarms have also complicated legal statuses. To simplify interactions, many less 'conventional' individuals register corporations in their own names, to use the pre-Sunfall commercial regulations to facilitate their own daily lives.
Sunfall showed a generation the value of multilayer defenses, or so the stereotype goes. Synthorgs plague otherwise secure cities, space, and pristine wildernesses, resisting well-organized extermination attempts. As such, a substantial portion of the population is armed, although non-lethal options are preferred against humans in urban areas. Police and security forces exist as reactionary security, there to handle things that cannot be dealt with otherwise. However, they are often over-extended, resulting in a wider view of civic responsibilities. Many countries have begun including basic first aid, weapons, and technical training into their standard curriculum.
The nation-state has survived Sunfall, albeit in altered form. The governments of Southeast Asia lacked a federal or overarching governance structure like Europe, China, India, Russia, or America, but the necessity of survival drove them together. As such, most bureaucrats and governments prefer to delegate to local authorities, so long as problems in a region do not leave that region. Existing leaders and structures, positive and negative, consolidated their power as a result. However, the movement of people out of them increased after Sunfall, as there is more physical and economic mobility as the world rebuilds.
Singapore has become the de facto 'capital' of the region, owing to its central location and surviving Sunfall with the least damage. The remnants of international organizations and provisional governments, including for very distant states that no longer exist, have all found a base in Singapore. While there are many local disputes, Singaporean influence is enough to limit large scale warfare, and to coordinate cooperation on international initiatives. From anti-pirate patrols to applied research, Singapore has become the liveliest spot in the Indo-Pacific.
Sunfall damaged reliable international travel, although dangerous synthorgs had made it increasingly dangerous for years. The problem was compounded by the orbit disaster that filled the atmosphere with space trash, the Blockade, denying easy access to orbit. In Southeast Asia, transportation sea has become common once more, although vessels are rarely alone. On land, travelers move in groups to avoid synthorgs and robbers. Air travel is seen as safe and reliable. Modern aircraft include electric turboprops, pre-Sunfall jetliners, and even solid-state electric planes. Going higher than Earth's atmosphere is more challenging.
Orbital spaceflight is difficult, but possible. The Blockade has turned what was a burgeoning constellation of space habitats into a high-speed shooting gallery. Uncrewed vessels are often used to deliver satellites or cargo, but human spaceflight is far more restricted. To bypass the worst of the Blockade, launches are conducted towards the poles. When required, rockets are launched from floating platforms or still-functional infrastructure (such as in Laos and India). Rockoons (weather balloons assisting rockets) and space cannons (such as the Singapore Sling) are increasingly used to sidestepping the need for conventional rockets. Trade with offworld colonies and salvage of wrecked spacecraft is a lucrative, but dangerous, draw.
Combat in the prior century was defined by rifle fireteams maneuvering based on tactics of suppressive fire and cover. The chaotic technological development radically shifted that tactical paradigm. As with urban areas, fighting in spacecraft and colonies involved extremely close ranges. Developments like powered armor, active cloaking, human augmentation, and acoustic deflectors greatly reduced the efficacy of conventional weapons and explosives. Furthermore, the availability of effective drones with microwave agonizer directed energy weapons enabled rapid detection and neutralization of the conventional fireteam at its traditional effective range (200-900m).
Combat came to involve exchanges at very long, and very close, ranges, with little in between. The ability to cover the 'dead ground' between close range engagement and long-range engagement was enhanced by prosthetics and active stealth. Snipers would operate spotter drones from hundreds of meters away, locating an enemy, coordinating with shock infantry, engaging exposed targets with semi-guided precision munitions, and securing the objective.
Infantry teams effectively operated using a variation on bounding overwatch tactics, in order to close the distance to their targets. Due to advances in body armor and acoustic deflectors, switching between melee weapons, heavy close-range slug-throwers, swarm bots, custom gadgets, and specialized energy weapons are required within the same engagement. The fireteam wedge, once the dominant form of infantry warfare, is now merely a highly-situational tactical formation. Far more diverse tactics are used, for human and synthorg foes of all sorts.
Synthetic organisms, or synthorgs, are a fact of life on post-Sunfall Earth and beyond. There is a certain nostalgia for pre-synthorg times, when the Sol System was only a collection of mostly dead rocks beyond the homeworld. However, synthorgs played a significant rule in preserving and restoring the environment on Earth. The first synthorgs were simply bacteria that dissolved plastic waste in the ocean into biodegradable compounds. Solar synthesis and mechanical self-replication complicated the situation.
Solar synthesis was the technique of using atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, to drive the assembly of complex molecules. Modern solar synthesizers trace their roots to carbon neutral fuels made with electrochemical catalysts, and later, artificial photosynthesis. The synthesis of sugar from atmospheric CO2 was among technologies pioneered for space colony life support. The collection of water vapor was later utilized as well. These technologies could be combined into compact form, and even simple plastics (and 3D printers) were also integrated. Later ones were able to work with metal, synthesize nanobots, and more exotic technical feats.
From these first-generation solar synthesizers came the self-replicating machines. Able to fabricate and insert replacement parts on their own, they were used to clean up plastic waste in the ocean. Others were designed to collect heavy metal pollution. Others were adapted for hard vacuum, and used to build lunar bases and maintain orbital infrastructure. They were often designed to have kill-switches and limitations, to preclude them from becoming gray goo, or excessively harmful to humanity. Rogue von Neumman machines, however, were only one of potential concerns.
Then Sunfall came. Some synthorgs were unaffected, but given they used simple, often analog, circuits to 'think' and process, they were affected. Most of the affected were destroyed. Others went rogue, adapting into the very environmental blight they were meant to combat. They did not just inhabit wildernesses, but cities, space stations, and settlements. Some were harmless, but others were not. They were nearly impossible to exterminate, so adaptation for humanity was the only choice. Others simply pursued strange goals, left alone if they are not harmful.
Some types of synthorgs include:
-Gigarat: The gigarat was originally a genetically modified rat with cybernetic implants, including a biological radio, used for search and rescue in urban environments and finding avalanche victims. During Sunfall, a pack of them escaped and developed fearful abilities, including cyberwarfare. As such, they are adept at military-grade electronic warfare, evading sensors and resisting attempts to exterminate them. They're fairly big, and sadly, also dangerous to humans. They are smart enough to coordinate attacks as a swarm or pack, often watching a target for months, and then striking while they sleep. They then use the target's electronic credentials for their own aims, which even included running scams and ordering food online.
-Mineworms: Mineworms are technically a von Neumann machine, a device used in asteroid mining. They would be seeded in asteroids, and used to help break off smaller chunks, or to devour deposits of materials. After their groundside control stations went silent during Sunfall, they continued devouring metal-rich asteroids across the Solar System. Some have made it to Earth, by hitching rides on asteroid fragments launched by automated delivery systems. Since Sunfall, they've expanded across the Earth, in the Australian Outback, and even underwater around the major oceans. They attack metallic objects out of 'hunger' and programming to acquire as much as possible. Each segment of the worm may have shields, weapons, or power modules, which can be separately targeted. Some have gotten hundreds of meters long, and there are unconfirmed reports of larger.
-Waterspouts: While not an active threat, waterspouts are quite breathtaking to behold. The waterspouts were originally intended as active support structures for space fountains, able to self-repair and replicate using materials common on Earth. Instead, they ended up becoming far stranger. They are a plastic, aqueous mesh of nanites that form a pump that moves water up, and then letting gravity siphon a portion down. They look like a tube of water leaning upwards into the sky, as the nanite component is virtually invisible. If punctured or damaged, they are able to regrow to hundreds of meters over days. They gather together in some areas, growing towards each other to establish a 'canopy,' a sort of airborne lake or water reservoir. These store water and other materials, and marine life has been sited living there, from algae to fish to dolphins. A few human divers have dared to go up a waterspout and document one of these firsthand.
-Dyson Forests: The Dyson tree was not a new idea, first proposed by the late Princeton scientist Freeman Dyson. They were originally genetically modified bio-organic plants intended to harvest water from lunar ice caps and comet cores. They grow a central, radiation shielded body, then replicate 'seeds' in the form of small von Neumann rocket probes. These are launched to nearby planets, and some varieties even connect themselves via fullerene cables. These Dyson forests, or Dyson groves, have been documented by citizen-astronomers, but some have reached Earth. It is believed the growths in Borneo's Mount Kinabalu may have been a rogue Dyson forest strain, among other possible origins.
-Cybergeists: Religious skeptics always questioned the idea of the soul, but some philosophers argue that humanity has invented it. Cybergeists, to some, represent the literal invention of a human soul. Or, according to others, a flawed facsimile. Memory uploading technology has existed for decades prior to Sunfall, resulting from advances in connectomics. The idea of using those memories, combined with other data (including social media, personal communications, and chatbots) to fill in the 'gaps' had existed for longer. The first generation of these cybergeists were simply advanced chatbots, but artificial general intelligence and connectomics changed that. Not all cybergeists were created by someone looking to 'cheat death.' Many were recreations of historic figures, the acting heads of megacorporations, and even the object of several celebrity magazines. Sunfall distorted these, and many other electronic entities. Some download into mobile emitters, using malware and hacked appliances to gaslight victims. Others engage in distorted activism based on their original cause. Others act like caricatures of their former selves. More exotic types are human minds controlling swarms of synthorgs and nanites. There is more variety of cybergeists than with corporeal people.
The Initiative runs branches across Southeast Asia and beyond. They report on the regional crises, and often, how they assist in dealing with them. Legal artificial general intelligences (AGIs) help sort the paperwork and regulations to allow Initiative personnel to be deployed, and if necessary, clean up afterwards. Local branch leaders bear the responsibilities for failure, so they try to ensure all relevant rules and customs are followed. The list of active crises sites includes:
-Singapore: Robotic Standoff: While Singapore is among the most secure countries in the region, there is a silent crisis in the heart of its downtown. The Sentinel Towers condominium was supposed to be the first fully automated, self-sufficient, and self-contained structure in the city. However, it opened during Sunfall. Communications within the tower went dark, and a handful of lucky survivors escaped. Since then, rogue security and worker robots have converted the arcology tower into a fortified structure, both above and below. The military does not simply level it due to the threat posed to surrounding structures. While skirmishes erupt and some daring intruders attempt to investigate, few who go in ever return. Local residents do their best to pretend it does not exist.
-Malaysia: Highland Growth: After Sunfall, a strange growth emerged on Borneo's Mount Kinabalu. It was partially organic and partially electronic, a forest of synthetic organisms designed to clean up pollution. The synthorgs have mutated from their original programming, now going beyond their original boundaries. The government has set up an Exclusion Zone around the boundary, but they still send in Initiative teams and volunteers. Strange things grow in the Zone, and unfortunately for the residents of Borneo, they sometimes get out.
-Indonesia: Asteroid Pirates: Asteroid mining was just getting started before Sunfall. Robots in the asteroid belt would send fragments of rock to Earth orbit, decelerate them, and undergo a controlled splashdown off the Indonesian coasts. A number of rocks made uncontrolled descents, and the ring of debris around earth makes controlled descents more challenging. As a result, when an asteroid crashes into the ocean, local pirates try to reach the asteroid first. Even if they do not sell it to illegal third parties, they can still ransom it for a hefty price. Additionally, many pirate gangs also launch electronic attacks to sabotage reentry. This has not yet resulted in civilian casualties, but it is a key concern both in space and Earth.
-Myanmar: Sunfall Aftermath: The Golden Triangle continues to be the uncontrolled underbelly of Myanmar. Several armed groups exploited the chaos of Sunfall to remove rivals, but the area has settled into a new equilibrium between the government, gangs, and militias. Complicating things are sentient robots claiming self-awareness hiding among the criminal gangs, as they fear being considered property under many countries' laws. The chaos obscures the reality of what is going on, and the danger keeps most outsiders away. Unfortunately, the Initiative has to investigate.
-Thailand: Conspiracy Theory: Thailand has suffered political turmoil before, but things keep becoming stranger. Along Thailand's borders are many nations and cultures, turning Bangkok into a regional crossroads. However, this has enabled strange cults and fringe political movements to proliferate, regardless of attempts to stamp them out. These range from the sincere to the cynical, hopeful to harmful. However, the police and military find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of groups. Going undercover may be the only way to gather that vital intelligence.
-Philippines: Terror from the Depths: Self-replicating synthorgs were used to clean up the seas from centuries of pollution. Unfortunately, they did not stay underwater. Jellyfish and squid-like synthorgs have begun expanding onto land, consuming organic matter they come across. Strange cults have arisen among remote villages, offering those that fall into their clutches to the visitors from the sea. The things from the deep have a cruel, indecipherable intelligence, seeming to grasp the value of having human collaborators. The Initiative has to profile and observe these cults, and the undersea masters they serve.
-Vietnam: Underground Ecologies: Deep in northern Vietnam is the Hang Son Doong, a cave with its own underground jungle. While reliable maps existed of the cave complex, much data was lost during Sunfall. In addition, synthorgs and human poachers began to use the cave and surrounding countryside as a base of operations. Helping the local authorities stop the poachers and explore the cave are two Initiative goals that often overlap.
-Laos: Off the Ground: For a brief period, Laos attempted to serve as a launch center for commercial space launch. However, the Singapore Sling made most rocket launches at the Sekong site un-economical, so only a handful of research rockets were deployed from the site. A new entrepreneur wants to try new forms of extreme sports and space tourism, including destroying the orbital debris that block easy access to space. Some Initiative test pilots and researchers are requested to vet the idea.
-Cambodia: Defending History: Cambodia has long been littered with the detritus of prior wars. This time, one directly threatens Angkor Wat itself. While the site was threatened by erosion and looting, the current danger comes from a pack of military drones malfunctioning since Sunfall. The drones are not always present at the site, but they have resisted extermination attempts, given they are able to rebuild themselves from available materials. It is in direct interest of the Initiative to destroy them for good, so that both tourism and archeological research and continue.
-Jetsam: Rising Seas: Jetsam is an artificial city built atop reclaimed land in the South China Sea. It is a center of visceral recycling, of dead ships and spacecraft, and even previously used cybernetics and synthorg parts. During Sunfall, refugees from the South Pacific swelled the population, setting up a syndicate of shell corporations to run the city. While small and toxic, the city declared itself a sovereign nation, which exists to launder money, illicit salvage, and other contraband into the world economy. Its economic connections (and potential blackmail on officials in nearby countries) is a concern to the Initiative, as are the goods and information on its black markets.
-Offworld: Blockade Runners: The Blockade is the informal name given to the belt of dead satellites and broken space habitats left after Sunfall. While much of it has been cleaned up, it still means human spaceflight is riskier, at least from conventional orbits. Despite this, there are still assets of interest in the Blockade, such as partially functional spacecraft, rare earth materials in broken satellites, or even the databases of dead habitats. A gray market salvage industry has emerged, which is a necessity for both clearing away orbital debris and getting access to offworld colonies once more. The Initiative has partnered with several actors here, although their records are often mixed.
-Dr. Marina Reyes
-Class: Armor Mechanic
-Bio: Dr. Marina Reyes is a marine biologist specializing in deep ocean life, and how synthetic organisms affect the ecology of geothermal vents and trenches. She uses a powered diving suit of her own design, able to withstand the crushing pressures of the ocean. She carries a harpoon gun to ward off the more hostile denizens of the deep, as well as the corporate mercenaries or pirates that try to steal her custom oceanographic equipment.
-Special: Lockdown: A foe hit with her harpoon gun is stuck in place, until they can wriggle out or break free.
-Class: Solar Blade Solarian
-Role: Tank (Melee)
-Nationality: Burmese (Officially, due to being found reprogrammed in a workshop in the Golden Triangle)
-Bio: A sentient robot organism originally designed for trimming foliage in gardens, CTR-77 was not originally self-aware. An illegal logging operation captured him and tried reprogramming him, inadvertently granting him self-awareness. Outfitted with a superheated chainsaw, he nevertheless hopes not to use it. His model has a mediator's personality matrix, which he has used to diffuse conflicts. Because when they escalate, things get messy.
-Special: Thermal Nova: Using a special heatsink, Cutter can spray nearby enemies in all directions with flame.
-Dr. Siang Changprung
-Class: Gadgeteer Operative
-Role: Striker (Ranged)
-Bio: Siang grew up on the border in between Thailand and Laos, becoming fascinated with the traditional Rocket Festival. Curious about customs and their origins, he studied anthropology and archaeology. The region's history, and how technology affected it, became the focus of his graduate work. He oversaw a reconstruction of Angkor Wat after reclaiming part of the ruins from a pack of rogue replicator drones. For a military archeology experiment, he reconstructed a Vietnam War era American gyrojet pistol, making it more accurate. That has served him well since, when he runs into looters or dangerous machines that have claimed the region's heritage as their own.
-Special: Afterburner Shot: Siang's gyrojets gain more power with range, so he normally keeps his distance. The afterburner shot enables him to launch an explosive shot that randomly veers around as it approaches its target, confusing a target and dealing more damage.
-Dr. Arun Patel
-Class: Weapon Mechanic
-Role: Striker (Turret/Defensive)
-Bio: Sometimes, all you need is a big freaking gun. Dr. Patel lived up to that maxim, although in a different way than most. Inspired by APG Abdul Kalam's book Wings of Fire, he designed a space cannon that drastically cut launch costs, a ram accelerator called the Singapore Sling. After the solar flare, his invention was key in rebuilding the damaged satellite communication and navigation networks. While mostly simulating high velocity collisions in Sat-Lab, he often goes on field testing to see how to better miniaturize his BFG11K portable ram accelerator, named for the 11 km/s escape velocity of Earth he launches projectiles to.
-Special: Barricade Brace: Dr. Patel can deploy a portable shield and brace his heavy ram accelerator on it. This grants stability, accuracy, and cover, although the shield may take damage. In this state, he can lock onto a single foe for increased damage.
-Role: Striker (Sniper)
-Bio: He is the last thing they never see. Sean Sung was a member of Singapore's Commando unit, serving as a sniper of no small repute. He once used the Coriolis effect in an O'Neill cylinder to curve a bullet to take out a terrorist assassin. He prefers his custom coil rifle, a magnetic accelerator that is silent and lacks muzzle flash. He typically operates solo, with a hologram projector and microreactor to help overcharge his weapon. Thanks to his training and patience, he can lie hidden for days. Normally, he does not need that long.
-Special: Overcharge Shot: By charging up his coil rifle with extra power, Sean can unleash a more powerful round. However, the power requirements mean he can only do this a few times a day, while his microreactor reaches.
-Nguyen Thuy Anh
-Class: Genetics Biohacker
-Role: Support (Debuff/Sniper)
-Bio: Nguyen Thuy Anh grew up near Hang Son Doong Cave, which possessed its very own jungle. When a gang of poachers moved in during Sunfall, her family was one of those extorted and threatened. After they executed her friend in the streets, she fought back. First, a guard went missing. Then the commander. By the time she was done, what was left of the gang was running to the authorities, begging for mercy. She found her inner demon then, stealing a dart rifle and devious poisons from the poachers. However, she has put her tracking and hunting talents to good use, battling invasive species, poachers, and other threats to the few unexploited ecosystems in the region.
-Special: Catabolic Agent: With a special toxin, she can lower an enemy's resistance to damage. For a brief period, the target's movement is slowed and they take more damage from attacks.
-Class: Bombard Soldier
-Role: Tank (Area denial)
-Bio: Razak has been around a while. A long while. He served aboard civilian and military ships, nearly dying when his ship collided during Sunfall. After his injuries nearly did him in, his remaining organs and head were transferred into an android body. He was one of the lucky ones, as they were able to get to him early. The rise of piracy in the years that followed created a demand for maritime security contractors, where his enhanced body proved its worth many times over. Lugging around heavy weapons like toys, he is always there when his comrades need him.
-Special: Smoke Out: Razak can launch a smoke grenade that blinds enemies, allowing him to relocate to a better position. In addition, the smoke grenade leaves an oil patch beneath it, which he can later ignite.
-Class: Momentum Vanguard
-Role: Tank (Defensive)
-Bio: Prayut Juntong was a member of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok during Sunfall. A former member of the Arintaraj 26 SWAT team, he was separated from his squad in the chaos. Nevertheless, he protected the Bangkok National Museum from would-be looters by barricading himself in the front door to prevent all entry. His description of that is still widely studied as a textbook for crowd control. His talents did not go unnoticed, nor did his newfound fame. Despite his heroic defense, enemies managed to force him out of the police. He started working with the Foundation since then.
-Special: Sonic Emitter: Juntong can use a riot control sonic emitter to strike many opponents simultaneously. The system is non-lethal on living targets, but still able to damage most mechanical adversaries. The device is integrated into his armor, so it does not take up a hand, which he uses for his riot shield and sidearm.
-Class: Solar Flare Solarian
-Role: Striker (Ranged)
-Bio: Jay Samnang grew up in Cambodia's rural Mondulkiri province. Samnang worked driving along those treacherous roads, taking over his family's tourism business. He would take tourists from within and outside Cambodia along scenic routes, driving off-road vehicles, piloting low-flying aircraft, and even drones. During Sunfall, he personally led his small fleet of vehicles to deliver aid to remote areas. As a reward for saving a relative, a scientist awarded him with an experimental device. It was a small nanoswarm, a fusion mote, that used a laser for selective cooling. The device helped him cool off overheated engines and parts, allowing him to further boost his machine's capabilities. That has enabled him to serve as the lead driver and pilot, dropping off teams faster than standard models would enable.
-Special: Tractor Beam: Samnang can modulate the custom laser to create pressure towards or away from an object or being. This means he a can attempt to disarm or pin an enemy on a successful attack, using his energy mote.
-Dr. Jake Murphy
-Class: Pharmacology Biohacker
-Role: Support (Debuffer/minor healer)
-Nationality: American (Former, currently without nationality)
-Bio: Originally a researcher at Miskatonic University, Dr. Murphy was stuck in Singapore during the solar flare. Since then, he's integrated into his adopted home as an instructor and consultant. He designed a number of remote drug delivery systems, including the nano-disrupter darts used to subdue malfunctioning robots and hostile organics without killing them. He uses a disrupter dart revolver in the field, always testing out concoctions to heal allies and leave enemies in a placid daze.
-Special: Disrupter Dart: With his special nanite cocktail, he can cause an unlucky foe to become weakened, stunned, and confused.
-Hawa "Wayang" Hawala
-Class: Ghost Operative
-Role: Striker (Melee)
-Nationality: Indonesian (suspected to be from Aceh)
-Bio: Hawa Hawala is not her real name, of course. It was the alias she used during a series of vigilante attacks against organized crime in Jakarta. Little is known about her in person, save that she was once heavily injured and uses a cyborg body. She seemingly knows where sensors are, how to avoid getting detected, and how to make it seem as though she was never there. Her weapon of choice is a retractable karambit blade in her hand, with small sawblade like projectiles used at range. Her attacks are coldly calculated to inflict the maximum terror on her mark, such to inspire no copycats. The online avatar Wayang proports to speak for her, but little know if there is truth or not. There are accounts that this figure now works with the Initiative, although little can be officially confirmed.
-Special: Cloaking Device: Using thermoptic camo built into her artificial body, Wayang can vanish while being observed by sensors or hostile entities. This enables her to perform a devastating sneak attack, or simply to retreat or relocate.
-Class: Sharpshoot Soldier
-Role: Striker (Skirmisher, Indirect fire)
-Bio: During Sunfall, the northern hemisphere collapsed into anarchy, war, and worse. A student in Shenzhen at the time, he grabbed a bow from a nearby archery club as this only weapon, and he made his way out of the city. He was the only member of his class to survive. Despite this ordeal, he remains upbeat and optimistic for the future of the world. He works as an Olympic archery instructor professionally, and a freelancer tutor for hire. He keeps his skills active and constantly refined by accompanying the Initiative on field missions. While ancient, his bow enables him to launch grenade arrows over hills, trees, or structures to indirectly strike opponents.
-Special: Arching Shot: By adjusting the trajectory of his arrows, Zhaoyang can strike any portion of the map, so long as he or a comrade has line of sight to it. In addition, he can launch camera arrows to reveal all objects on a wider, outdoor map or large interior area.
-Class: Hit and Run Soldier
-Bio: Thaman Rai was a Gurkha during Sunfall. He single-handedly fought off a heavily armed gang trying to rob a train. With his plasma kukri and assault rifle, he is well equipped for engagements at close and at range. He typically lays down suppressive fire with his rifle, and then closes the distance with his plasma kukri. He has served across Southeast Asia and beyond, his experiences making him a sought-after trainer and security contractor. It was his drive to help his comrades and their adopted homes that drove him to accept the Initiative's offer.
-Special: Ayo Gurkhali: Thaman fires several bursts from his assault rifle, striking all targets in a cone shaped area. Following this, he can charge in with his kukri, gaining a bonus against the selected target.
-Class: Exocortex Mechanic
-Nationality: New Zealander (Ngati Mahini iwi)
-Bio: Hone Tupara was a rescuer turned salvager after Sunfall. He was a New Zealander of Maori descent, in particular, Ngati Mahini. Ngati Mahini was formed among New Zealand migrants that lived and worked offworld, in the country's commercial space industry. Cybernetic augmentations were common due to the hazards and radiation exposure, and Hone Tupara got an exocortex brain implant. The onboard AI, PUAKA, has saved his life multiple times, on Earth and beyond. As an experienced astronaut, Hone brings experience working at sea and space as a technician.
-Special: Emergency Exit: Using his breaching gun, Hone Tupara can blow a wall or door opened. He carries a limited number of breaching shells, so he is limited in the number of shots he can make per excursion.
-Class: Flying Drone Mechanic
-Bio: Catherine Wake is a journalist working for an online conspiracy tabloid, The Daily Hex. She has a small camera drone she uses to cover interviews and investigations. However, she is covertly investigating far more powerful targets: governments, megacorporations, and the well-connected. Thus, she works as a conspiracy reporter by day to mask her true goal. She was covering the connections between money laundering in Southeast Asia during Sunfall, so she ended up making it her base of operations.
-Special: Paint Target: Using her drone to scan for weaknesses, Catherine Wake can give herself and her allies a bonus to hit enemies.
-Class: Exergy Vanguard
-Role: Striker (Skirmisher, melee)
-Bio: Alexei Zhukov grew up skeptical and inquisitive, traits that have only increased since Sunfall. As a mixed martial artist, he was training in Thailand during the disaster. He kept a low profile during that time, helping his friends and fellow students. Afterwards, he saw unscrupulous, self-proclaimed martial arts "masters" claiming they had supernatural powers. Following the lead of other debunkers, he challenged them to a match in the ring. He has become a literal cult buster, taking down fake masters on the mat and ring. Given the threats on his life, he has also worked as a bodyguard and security consultant for celebrities. He works with the Initiative to help continue his work.
-Special: Takedown: On a successful hit, Alexei can attempt to sweep or disarm a foe. He makes a second attack at a slight penalty. If he succeeds, he can knock the enemy prone or remove a weapon or item from their hands.
-DH223 "Park Daehun"
-Class: Small SRO Hacker Operative
-Role: Support (Debuffer, Stealth)
-Nationality: South Korean
-Bio: DH223, also using the alias "Park Daehun," first appears as a small robotic toy. It behaves like a DH series general purpose assistant, a robot popular before Sunfall. DH223 is something of a mystery. DH223 was recovered from a downed shuttle by Cerulean Initiative explorers. While damaged, DH223 was reactivated. The unit had the identifications of a vanished Korean businessman, Park Daehun, but little else to indicate where it was. It did, however, possess a military grade cybersecurity rootkit and utility tool. With an electroshock arc pistol able to stun or overload most targets, it was likely not used for merely teaching programming. While DH223 has no concept of what its pre-Sunfall existence was, it is certainly trying to find out.
-Special: Blackout: Most individuals use wearable devices, nanites, or implants of some sort. With it special cybersecurity deck, DH223 will attempt to feed in false sensory data. This leaves the target flat-footed and distracted.
-Inspector Leung "Andy" Kin-ming
-Class: Pistol Dancer Aesthetic Warrior Soldier
-Nationality: Hong Kong Chinese
-Bio: Andy Leung was once an officer of the Hong Kong Police Force, before Sunfall. In the chaos that followed, he made deals with the city's organized crime and gangs. He was not proud of what he did, but he credits that deal with saving lives in a desperate time. While he resigned from the force afterwards, many of his contacts still address him as "Inspector." For a time, he lived and worked as a private investigator on the artificial island city of Jetsam. After he saved an agent of the Cerulean Initiative, he was invited to join. His dual pistol style has some imitators, but he is the most efficient at it.
-Special: Akimbo Unleashed: Andy carries several loaded pistols with him, often using two at once. Sometimes, he can unleash four of them to act as suppressive fire, unloading a wall of lead at close-range foes.
-Hammer and Anvil
-Class: Small SRO Combat Drone Mechanic
-Bio: Hammer is a small SRO, a utility robot containing a high-end artificial intelligence used as a tour guide. Bhutan continued measuring citizen contentment through Gross National Happiness, so Hammer was programmed to assist visitors in ensuring a safe journey through the country's scenic passes. However, their other job was to clear potential avalanches. For that, they used a larger 'comrade,' Anvil. Anvil dressed like a soldier in ancient armor, although covered in 'caution' tape. Anvil carries a large plasma cannon used to blast unstable stones, to ensure trails are clear for passage. Hammer and Anvil were recovered wandering alone in the Himalayas by members of the Cerulean Initiative, their navigation damaged during Sunfall.
-Special: Bring Down The Mountain: Anvil is adept at creating obstacles for enemies. Hammer can designate a portion of wall or ceiling, which Hammer blasts to slag. This creates difficult terrain in a nearby space, reducing enemy speed through the area.
-Ishimura "Kyute" Haruka
-Class: Blitz Soldier
-Bio: Haruka grew up in rural Japan, with only augmented reality games and dramas for company. One particularly rare drama she enjoyed was a local augmented reality adaptation of "Don Quixote." She enjoyed the way the man actor particularly hammed up his performance. She eventually acquired an old utility exosuit, which she adapted for the augmented reality experience. However, an older neighbor found her annoying, and he set up a particular prank. He implanted a minor piece of malware into the suit, based on her favorite show. Once she accessed it, the suit's servomotors were hijacked. Haruka spent the rest of the day unwillingly chopping down wind turbines outside town with a homemade polearm, until rescue workers managed to disable the suit. Eager to put it behind her, she left her small town for Southeast Asia. However, her experiences left her as one of the leading powered armor specialists in the Initiative.
In the setting of Cerulean, there are no supernatural forces (at least officially). Removing explicitly supernatural elements would substantially effect Starfinder game balance. However, technobabble can explain most of the magic forces from default Starfinder lore. While explaining every instance would be impossible, here are a few general ideas:
-Races: Most of the population in Cerulean are human, although some have artificial bodies (modeled as androids in Starfinder). Sentient machines, such as the SROs, are also common. Standard fantasy races may exist as biomodded humans (or other organisms). If they exist in your game, other Starfinder races may be other transgenic creations, such as ysoki being originally research creations uplifted to sentience.
-Equipment: Hybrid or magical equipment is instead 'shielded and self-powered.' The devices have backup power sources that are effectively self-powered, shielded against electromagnetic interference. "Anti-magic" effects instead can selectively target this shielding. A black heart necrograft, for instance, might be an artificial tissue graft powered by a small radiothermal generator.
-Other Planes: Technically, the planes detailed in Pathfinder and Starfinder may exist: Just as simulations populated by sentient (or mostly non-sentient) artificial intelligence. The fantasy gaming realm of Starpath contains simulations of fantasy planes, and the inhabitants therefore of. Since Sunfall, many of these entities have their own agendas...
Creatures: The denizens of these virtual realms can interact with the real world a number of ways. One of these is through hard light holograms, nanoswarms, and hacked machines.
-Fey and Magical Beasts: Fey and magical beasts may be glitched, rogue, or erratic sentient software affected by Sunfall. These could be former advertisement chatbots, spokes-beings for political parties and countries that no longer exist, or perhaps a roving, rogue research AI hopping between hacked cleaning bots to acquire 'samples' from subjects.
-Outsiders: A summoned 'outsider' demon or angel might be a nanoswarm projecting a hard light hologram in humanoid form. Energy requirements of hard light holograms make maintaining for long periods these challenging.
-Aberrations: Aberrations may be synthorgs, fusions of genetically engineered tissue and mechanical parts, or mutated designer organisms of various types.
-Oozes: Oozes may be nanoswarms, or rather nano-blobs, made for various purposes. Since Sunfall, many have gone rogue.
-Elementals: Elementals may be nanoswarms for environmental monitoring or cleanup, encasing themselves in the appropriate materials.
-Undead: Undead might be assemblages of soft robotics and grafted tissue sculpted from hacked tissue printers, cheap and easy to make. Alternatively, they could be simulations of departed and dead, clinging onto mobile hard light emitters, or malevolent AIs controlling corpses through cybernetics. Some of these AI, cybergeists, may even psychologically target individuals and places.
-Deities: "Deities" may simply be the most powerful AIs in cyberspace, able to interface with the real world through dedicated proxies and devices.
-Afterlife: Destructive, post-mortem brain uploading technology (or keeping brains alive in jars) may similarly allow for an "afterlife." Different AI deities may desire certain personality types for their own simulations, although some may not acquire them willingly…
-Morality and Alignment: While alignment is a factor in Starfinder, it could be retconned as a reputation system. How do the morality of the setting and its inhabitants register the creatures involved? While subject to some debate, it can be mostly omitted.
Classes: Each class with supernatural mechanics could have alternative explanations. These include:
-Technomancer: Technomancers simply have custom nanoswarms, hologram emitters, force fields, and other gadgets that enable their various powers. Their technology is generally too esoteric or custom for mass production, requiring specialized training to know. The spell limit is due to nanotech feedstock and strain on custom power supplies (like a microfusion reactor), replenished after enough time.
-Mystic: Just as powerful AI affect the world in unexpected ways, they may work through people. The function of the AI determines the connection. That connection means the AI will work through the local environment (say, with forcefields, holograms, nanoswarms, etc.) to make their powers function. Such powers depend more on local perception than training, hence being separate from technomancers.
-Solarian: Solarian powers depend on a solar mote, which is a microfusion reactor encased in a small force field or nanoswarm, which can be reconfigured for laser emission. The solarian trains to use it based on their personal creativity, selecting a manifestation. The solar weapon is a personal melee weapon. The solar flare may be a self-assembling laser emitter (either for thermal emission or optical cooling). The solar armor and shield are protective nanofields.
-Vanguard: The vanguard operates using a swarm of dissembler nanites, originally intended to clean up toxic waste or for industrial cutting. The use requires intense physicality and endurance, especially as their body (direct or indirectly) provides power to the nanites.
-Witchwarper: The witchwarper is an architect of virtual realities and possibilities. They use a custom nanite hard light hologram emitter, which gives them their battlefield control abilities. Their creativity enables them to devise such scenarios, separating their main stat from technomancers and mystics.