In the morning of the 9th of September, 2011, a third great nuclear explosion (3GE, or the Third Great Emission) rocked Chernobyl and the surrounding ‘Zone’, where all sorts of scavengers and explorers had been making a living since 2GE, trying to extract the weird, unexplainable artefacts that had begun popping up.
The ‘Sea Launch’ facility, an ocean-going space-launch platform, was at the time doing it’s thing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, near a small island nation known as Kiribati, a corruption of ‘Gilberts’, the name of the main archipelago. The facility consists of the ‘Odyssey’, a rebuilt oil rig, and the ‘Sea Launch Commander’, a custom-built ship housing command facilities.
When it became apparent the Zone was expanding, and probably wouldn’t stop any time soon, scientists and world-leaders rallied together. With Earth herself threathening to become a nuclear wasteland, the Space Race was back on everyone’s agenda. Most existing launch sites were deemed too close to the Zone, and many did prove to be in the following months.
The Odyssey and the SLC were jury-rigged together, and refugees of all sorts started flocking in, forming a community on the atolls and in ships and improvised, floating shanty towns. The whole area has become known as the Gulags, after the infamous Soviet labour camps, for their atrocious living conditions and wide-ranging anarchy.
It’s now 2023, and civilisation has struck in Kiribati. Under the authority of the UN, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gualle has setlled in, providing a beacon of order, and the neighbourhoods around it are relatively safe, named ‘Gagarin District’ after a local underwater feature, in-turn named after the deceased Kosmonaut.
Odyssey city is far larger than Gagarin District and Odyssey central, however, and lawlessness is widespread. Major factions out of the reach of the Charles De Gualle are the Japanese Yakuza and the American Mafia, as well as the South-American drug cartels, the three criminal organizations first on the scene due to geographical proximity.
A relatively new phenomenon has also sprung up in Eurasia, and has lately even spread to Odyssey City. Often covered near-completely, rumor has it to hide their hideous mutations, the self-named ‘Cult of Strelok’ is the newest global religion. They argue that radiation exposure is the trigger for the next step in human evolution, and are vehemently opposed to the ongoing research and development efforts aboard Odyssey Central. They are known for getting on their soapbox on streetcorners, urging every willing ear to return to the continents and join the new society, naturally under their god-given leadership. Rumors abound about their true motives and their origins, and the occasional terrorist attack is linked to them, though the Cult claims to be benevolent and pacifistic.
Last but not least, the chaos of the last decades has also given rise to a new, international, group of professionals, almost a caste. Mercenaries have multiplied beyond anyone’s expectations, literally everywhere on the sliding scale of morality. After the legendary explorers from the Zone’s early days, the very best of them brand themselves STALKERS, and they don’t take kindly to ‘plain mercs’ abusing that nickname. Mercs are everywhere, and people in the know can find you a STALKER. And demand for their abilities has never been higher.