Of course the world ends. It happens quickly, faster than anyone could predict. The Red Plague hits a world already on the brink of collapse. Extreme climate change, global economic crisis, increasing conflict between old and new superpowers. When the pandemic comes, the last thin veneer of stability crumbles.
One billion people die in the first year. Utter panic reigns supreme, solidarity between nations is non-existent. Wars break out over the last, dwindling resources of the world. For the first time since 1945 nuclear weapons are used in armed conflict. Mushroom clouds rise from east to west. Everyone tries to save themselves. The rich and powerful start monumental projects to escape the surface of the dying Earth: underground, to the bottom of the oceans, into space. The seats in these final lifeboats for mankind of humanity are desperately few. For most of the world’s inhabitants, there is no way out.
Once it’s all over, Earth is still. Nature invades ruined cities. Winds sweep through empty streets turned into graveyards. Time gnaws the windows off skyscrapers, panes falling to the ground in a slow rain of glass.
Yet life remains. Slivers of humanity survive the Apocalypse. In the Ark, a small settlement at the edge of a dead city, the People live. You are the spawn of humanity, but not quite human. You are twisted funhouse images, mutated freaks. Your bodies and minds have incredible powers, but you are unstable. Fragile. None of the People are over 30 years old.
Except the Elder. Your leader, but not like you. One of the Old Ones. For decades he has warned you: be on your guard, don’t leave the Ark. Stay here, or the Rot will get you. Or something even worse. So far, you have obeyed his commands. Lived off rations from the Old Age. Chased off every stranger who came close to the Ark. Few dared to go out into the Zone. That is what the Elder calls the outside world.
But the safe days are over. Food is running scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent. You starve. Factions are forming, bosses on top and slaves at the bottom. In the middle, fixers who try to turn a profit from anyone and everyone. And the Elder can’t stand up on his own anymore. They say he can’t even take a piss without help. You’re on your own now.
It’s time to venture out. To explore the Zone, to search for artifacts and knowledge. Build, grow the land, seek out others, create a new civilization on the ruins of the old one. Seek your origin. No children are born to the People – if you do nothing, you will perish. Maybe, one day, you will find the Eden of legend, the Old Ones’ haven from the encroaching hellscape. That’s where salvation and truth await, the stories say.
Maybe it’s all bullshit. It doesn’t matter. You have no choice. This is the beginning.
This is Year Zero.