My notes for the prompt-stories I did that will become an actual novel at some point.
Setting: It is sometime in the future. There are several nation-states. Some at war, some at peace, some protected, some almost obliterated. Two nations have been battling for some years for supremacy of ideals over the other, each using differing takes on eugenics while convinced the other side is a complete monster. The core of it can be how each side is forced to adopt the principles of ‘the enemy’ in order to survive and both become seriously fucked up places to live.
The tuskegee syphilis experiment is the starting point, the cold war much of the rest. It’s about the monstrous things a society does to itself in order to ‘win’ a war, bracketed by Russell’s famous arguments against the first world war, that the sacrifice isn’t dying for ones country but the act of killing for it. That being killed isn’t a choice, but deciding to kill is, and how it changes everything. That the war possibly can’t end now because both sides have produced killing machines in human skin that aren’t good for anything else. The characters respective beliefs about their homelands boil down to a quote I read once by an actor (Anthony Sher) that ‘It's sociologically interesting, though scary, that you can be inside an evil system and be somehow unaware of it.’
Unification: Slavic areas (centred on Russia, extending into northern china)
Vesperia: North america (southern canada, northern USA)
Europe: War zone.
Northern Canada/arctic circle: War zone (no longer considered safe.)
Southern USA: Dead zone, due to previous wars. (This will be referenced to as the Nahuatl War, which saw north and south america engage in brutual wars that ended in a stalemate some time ago.)
Green’s Stone: New Zealand. The only true nanotech society to survive the Age of Hubris unscathed. They keep to themselves, shielded and protected by nanotechnology and survive by trying to ignore as much as the outside world as they can.
Land of Seres – China, southern Asia, middle east. Where, in an effort to put aside all issues of sex, gender and race, everyone is a sentient gas inside pressure suits. No, really. They walled themselves off; no one bothers them, they bother no one else.
Koena - Africa. A hive mind engaged in a brutal civil war caused (and engineered) by outside forces (aka Uluru and those who are aware of the Night Train and its purpose).
Australia – Known as Uluru [Ayres Rock]; this is where mankind emerged from various arcs after the end of the nanotech wars (aka the age of hubris); considered wasteland, avoided by all. Nareau is based out of it.
Consists of the lands that were the USSR, northern china, some of europe. Slavic areas, essentially, and the home of Sasha. The protagonists of the series, at least initially. Their technological evolution has been via the physical sciences. Weapons. Giant mecha. War machines. Dirigibles. They build weapons that can level cities, and often have done so, and pilot their technologies via the ‘select’. Everyone who is select is physically limited in some way, considered unable to work properly in the various factories etc. that build the technologies that the Union needs.
The select are taken to The Chamber and experimented on. Those who cannot walk placed in mecha that can walk and so forth. The philosophy is that the least among them are made into the most, and defend the Union from its many and terrible enemies.
Note: those with mental ‘aberrations’ are removed, fearing that they might defect to Vesperia or be controlled from a distance through arcane psychic means. Or, more pragmatically, that they do not fit into the aesthetic of the Unification and would be unduly disruptive. This is their means of eugenics/selection, though they also secretly use nanotechnology to guard their minds from espers and the like, which leads to some natural defenses.
The Chamber: a vast complex where Sasha is taken for experimentation. Every city in the Unification has one.
Governance: The Capital is ruled via selected public servants, the government-only Internet allowing for real-time voting on all events by them. Locally, votes are done by hand for candidates for various districts in a city and town, and from there one becomes eligible to apply for work at the Capital (or in higher ruling bodies in the city one is in etc.). Some positions are entirely drop in/out and random so regular citizens often do political duty from time to time, akin to jury duty. (This is intended to echo a kind of workable communism.)
The aristocracy are basically the non-elected functionaries who really run things: politicos come and go, but they are the bedrock and have leveraged that into social standing and order through the centuries. It also gives citizens another goal to aspire for beyond the political, a way ‘out’ from the default social strata.
Clothing denotes status, various hues within each colour being Important. Doctors/The Chamber: Black. Engineers: blue. Orderlies: White. Average citizen: Brown. Aristocracy: Red.
The Unification is based on tried and true technology, though in odd ways. There is radio, but no Internet as that was abolished some time ago. (The official reason is an AI War, the reality is the control of information.) Their tech is based on physicality: bodies, armour, shields and so forth, their domed cities covered in protective metals and energy fields. Basically, they make mecha (Defenders, and then Protectors as well), pilot them with the ‘unfit’ and sic them on their enemies. Due to the high cost of training they have been working on hypnotraining shortcuts and so forth for some time. Also trying to cram more technology into the mecha and less, well, pilot. Attempts at brain-only interfaces have failed and been deemed too easy for Vesperia to compromise.
Everyone in the Union receives mental training in keeping their minds together, shielding and so forth. This is bolstered by secret nanotech injections to help protect the brain against unwanted interference. It also leads to less psychiatric disorders and is seen as proof the Union is superior in all respects.
Note: The core of the Union is technology that eliminates physical ‘defects’. Instead of using this to heal broken backs or restore sight, they use it to do that and augment people into war machines. Basically, it’s a utopia that has turned dystopic due to war. Vesperia counts as this as well.
Note 2: The Unification specializes in physical ailments (curing/improving etc.) while Vesperia does the same for mental. Both nations, combined, would basically be the ideal utopia but neither can see the other as more than just ‘the enemy’ at present.
Vesperia – "land of the evening star"
This compasses a good chunk of North America (southern canada, northern USA) and is the ‘Main Enemy’ in the stories. Vesperia looks rather utopic, protected by energy fields and psychic shields against harm and their aesthetic is definitely inspired by beauty (physical and otherwise). The population is protected by Espers, humans with psychic powers who can do some really, really scary shit. All espers are drawn from the depressive, suicidal, etc. and given drugs that ‘cure’ them but also turn them into psychic killing machines. In their defence, this did begin wholly as a way to help fix mental illness, but the end result of trials and drugs was something far, far beyond anything they’d expected or bargained for. Most of their technology is based around biology: they don’t get as sick as others, they live longer and those with purely physical defects are healed (if they can be) or removed; those with mental ones are given various drugs and treatments that turn them into Espers. Gray is the result of new drugs/tests to make even more impressive espers.
Espers have a short lifespan since they burn out their minds in a matter of years. That is the official word. The unofficial one is that the state of being an esper bends the mind, leading to schizoids who must then be eliminated for reasons of public safety. Those with paranoid schizophrenia do enter the program, but do not emerge from it as actual espers.
While the Unification shuns glitz and glamour [due to not wanting to waste the resources on beautification and such; they need resources to build Defenders], Vesperia revels in being the garden capital of the world and other such titles. Their focus is not on physical weapons/armour, so they can afford to ‘waste’ resources to an extent and see this as a moral victory over the Unification. ‘See how free we are, that we have choice in buildings!’ and so forth.
Governance: A ruling council drafted from private citizens and those who work in various Ministries (aka government departments). Presidents were deposed some time ago and the use of espers as a psychic police force means that Vesperia has less crime than other nations and is, generally, far more stable. Conversely, it also means they don’t have a generic military and a direct invasion by the Unification would screw them over very, very badly.
As Ministries have to hide actions from espers, the government is run very secretively and the actual mechanics not well understood by the average citizen at all. Amusingly, the Unification is far more open and transparent in that respect. The irony is entirely lost on the citizens of Vesperia.
The Institute: Where Gray is trained to be an esper. Basically a giant garden with buildings, all calm and serene until one prods at the Network of minds located within it...
Technology: biological based (though rooted in drugs/mental balance). They can ‘fix’ most any mental ailment, though the drugs are seldom a) cheap or b) devoid of side effects. Said drugs are often tested on those deemed physically unfit and curing mental infirmities is very, very important in the society. Vesperia has always had a very dim view of such things, and as such the Unification turning the disabled into ‘monsters’ (rather than ethically killing them) is seem as a sign of pure barbarism to them.
Note: Given what the Unification does to Sasha, it is not intended to come out well during the first part of the story. Vesperia comes out better until one realizes they basically mind-screw their own citizens to insane levels. Gray coming to terms with this is a big chunk of the latter part of the story.