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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: Racism and Fear in Rifts Earth

By Pete Overton

NOTE: Racism is wrong. Absolutely. This is a look at the game of Rifts and its predominant views, not to be construed as support for intolerance.

The last thing the world needs is another file on fear and racism, for it is a very well documented reality of our lives that the disgusting tendancies of these two things exist. But the Coalition is extremely adept at manipulating this ignorance, and it is from that angle that this file is written, primarily in order to expand on the typical CS citizen.

With the advances of science through the 21st century, mankind had come to relative peace with itself. With the initiatives that started in the late 20th century, that seed had bloomed and the world found itself better represented by a more diverse population, highlighted by the election of Elizabeth Whitmer to the office of the President of the United States in the late 2010s. Such a major step forward for equality from the world's premiere superpower was almost an affirmation of the inevitability of equality and the inherent worth of every single human life on the planet. A return to a more tranquil, individual-worth philisophy of life returned and Humanism gripped the majority of the planet.

When Humanity took the great step back to space, the science of cloning was resurrected in order to make a viable workforce. Advances had made it such that clones were able to be organically programmed fairly successfully, but once that genie was out of the bottle, it was too big to put back in. Humanism was divided on whether or not a clone had a soul and religious groups were equally divided on the subject, wracked with the horror of man playing God. The gentle fragility of the 21st century was shattered as Humanity found a new target to hate in the clones. The detection of faint radio signals from a distant star surprised everyone but equally did it feed the growing Humanity First movement. By all accounts, the movement never reached anywhere near epic proportions, but they claimed a disproportionate amount of media for their radical acts and colourful displays.

The passage of the Clone Rights Bill in the United States in the early 2080s caused a literal firestorm as in one of the most brutal and shocking acts of terrorism known to mankind, a group of Humanity First members set and were killed by a small nuclear device in the Washington Cloning Facility. The facility was vaporized and the nation was rocked, suddenly realizing the depths to which they had fallen. Almost overnight a reversal of opinions occurred as few wanted to be associated with Humanity First's radical actions and views and quiet, subtle cold war developed between Humanity and their clones. Clones were cute way back and their cries for a homeland of their own were ignored as their production became *very* controlled. But the nuking of the WCF was the catalyst that provoked cautious acceptance; which is to say that the dominant view was one of quiet resignation. The furor over genetically manipulated humans still blared loudly, however, as the Amphib Scandal emerged into the light.

The world was more fascinated by budding research into the field of psychic sciences. While still extremely small and weak, a number of seemingly totally verifiable claims came forth which polarized the world. Humanity in its best nature started immediately jumping to avoid another clone disaster and clamped down tightly on the fledgling psychics. However, where clones were technically merely human, psychics wielded powers that no one understood and no one who was not psychic could ever understand. Suddenly being a clone was the least of the world's problems as countries scrambled to examine this new paradigm, but were cut off by the events of the world catching up to them.

By the time 2098 rolled around, police departments of major sprawls had a small psychic department and the advent of the first commercial psychics were beginning to be felt. By Rifts Earth standards, they were pathetically weak, but they were the uberhumans of the time, able to surface scan and perform some minor psychic abilities. When the Cataclysm hit, all hell broke loose, quite literally.

To say that the human psychology was changed forever by the Coming of the Rifts would be a gross understatement. The question of Humanity's place in the universe was answered in an instant, and soon they learned that there was a MEGAVERSE out there of countless, infinite universes, each as rich and diverse as their own. Perhaps a brief description of life slightly after the Rifts opened would be appropriate to get this point across, for it is important. I'll look at China for an example, using Hong Kong as a specific example. For a variety of reasons, China emerged from World War 3 in decent shape, but their fight was just starting.

A variety of things emerged when the Rifts first opened. For whatever reason, be it karma or bad luck, a demonic army emerged in China. The Chinese military immediately called for a ceasefire with anyone human and attacked the demons, slowly losing city by city. Hong Kong held out for a long, long time comparatively speaking, because the port was important to the Chinese as refugees flooded through it and were conscripted into the Chinese army, irregardless of race, religion, or gender. Humanity itself began to question its continuing existence, forcing a worldwide unification like never before -- but in defense of their own planet and way of life. The streets of Hong Kong were deserted except for groups of military patrols, and on the fronts in Northern and Eastern China the Chinese began to use tactical nukes, unwittingly feeding the problem. Humanity put up a fight like never before, and Hong Kong lasted for nearly three months, the majority of the fighting contained to flooded out streets but eventually it began to be pushed back and the Chinese put together a volunteer force of a variety of differing races and cultures to plant a powerful nuclear weapon at the heart of the city, ironically duplicating the tactics of the Humanity First people decades earlier. Hong Kong was utterly leveled.

This scene was duplicated all over the world and Humanity in their fervor to survive began to stop questioning what came out of the Rifts morally and started to assume that everything was hostile towards them. While this assumption was not overly inaccurate, Humanity was extremely desperate and feeling their backs at the wall so to speak, they lashed out blindly.

The Second Dark Ages were a time of great trouble for Humanity. As with any such radical sociological devolution, the attitudes of the peoples changed quickly enough and suddenly all of the great advances of the world were tossed out the window. Many areas became positively feudal because democracy was a luxury they could not afford in their survival. While the gender gap stopped existing entirely, the wounded pride of Humanity lashed out at anyone who seemed different, marauding gangs of 'retribution squads' paying back the deebs for what they brought with them from the Rifts. Ignorance was at an all-time high and an almost enclave sort of attitude took place, with groups of human refugees gathering together and circling the wagons so to speak and declaring exclusion zones where ANYONE would be shot.

An interesting thing happened during the Second Dark Ages, something that was much more common in richly diverse countries like Canada and the US than more racially homogenous countries like Japan or China. As refugees came together for their own survival, what seemed like gulflike distances before were suddenly the most silly quarrels that were put aside. As time marched on, the diversity of the refugees began to blend together as they bred newer generations and sharp racial traits soon began to blend smoothly with other sharp racial traits. A literal melting pot of race was happening under the pressure of the survival of the race and cultures that seemed too divergent to reconcile now blended together fairly simply in order to ensure that Earth would not be lost. A white man could have the name Kurosawa while a Chinese man might have the name Heinlein. Cultures blended and suddenly race was no longer an issue except as a rallying banner for Humanity.

The advent of psychics and mages added fuel to the fire in a strange way. Psychics, almost universally feared and reviled before the Cataclysm, were suddenly embraced as heroes afterwards when it was discovered that their powers could be used to detect and eliminate monsters. The Psi-Stalker variant human emerged around this time (see the Psi-Stalker file forthcoming) who were adept at detecting these creatures. Mages were more problematic since Humanity had not wielded those arts for some time and the first generation of mages tended to go out in blazes of glory trying some spell or ancient tome's instructions. The Salt Lake City Desert was created in this fashion when some first generation mage tried to erect a protective barrier around the city, but in fact he managed to turn it into a wasteland. No structures stood afterwards and it appears to be a simple desert some 40 miles across now. Mages were initially distrusted and excluded unless they hid their talents (which was getting harder with the spread of Psi-Stalkers) or agreed to practise discretion.

Mages to this day are puzzled at how psychics were accepted while they were generally hated. The root of this lies in the fact that psychics do not have a great variety of talents as opposed to the diversity of magic, and that in some form psychic powers were expected to be the destiny of Humanity in any event and could be quantified as a science. People with psychic powers did not change as much as those who evidenced magic powers, since life to them did not change as much as it was augmented, and psychics were much more willing to serve Humanity than mages who often ran off to discover long lost lore and no small amount defected from Earth entirely. The naturalization of psychics and the alienation of mages is something that exists to this day on Rifts Earth.

To the normal person, psychic powers are also understandable, whereas magic is not. That is to say, moving objects by mental concentration is something they can identify with and wish for, while casting a spell to do the same thing seems foreign and alien and seems to mimic those things from the Rifts a lot. A basic psychic rating system is in place and is fairly quantified (see the Psychic File, forthcoming) whereas mages are a relative mystery. It is this unknown quantity that make mages so dangerous to a normal person, the insecurity of their abilities as opposed to the well documented psychic powers. A recent survey conducted amongst the Burbs supports this. 88% of the people asked could identify at least two psychic powers (telepathy and telekinesis most common) while a mere 7% could identify at least two schools of magic (necromancy and elementalism most common).

Psi-Stalkers and Dog Boys are a more interesting case. As Psi-Stalkers are at their heart a variant of the human template, they are accepted, especially in the case of detection of the supernatural. However, their peculiar dietary needs coupled with their bizarre side effects (their rapport with animals, etc.) makes them a sort of quandry. Were there to be a purge of all psychics, Psi-Stalkers would be the first to go, but for now they are very useful and are necessary parts of Humanity. The irony is that Psi-Stalkers in the long run will probably end up becoming a viable part of Humanity's future. Dog Boys are another issue. While a minority are totally against Dog Boys, the vast majority of Humanity enjoy the company of them and see them as simply a futher step of man's best friend. Most don't treat them as equals, of course, but more as valued lessers. Most Dog Boys equally are conditioned to accept this and are content with their place in life. As far as Dog Boys go, they are simply seen as a more useful pet dog, end of story.

See, psychics developed naturally on Earth and their progression was beginning as the Rifts hit. Dog Boys were an experiment in progress before the Cataclysm. Psi-Stalkers developed out of humans to fill a new ecological niche. Clones (while EXTREMELY rare these days) were created by the hand of mankind. To the typical person, anything of man and Earth are assumed to be de facto allies in the battle for Earth. It is the aliens and the monsters that invade that are the horrors and the ones to fear. As far as the typical person goes, psychic powers are gifts and a sign of advanced being, while magic and the use of magic is more akin to a disease or an impurity. It doesn't help much that the beings from the Rifts who emerge as a rule use magic far more than psychic powers.

Now, with this in mind, the Coalition arose on the thoughts of unifying the remnants in order to expunge the evil elements of the Rifts and regain control over their environment; of course, those elements included most non-humans. After the Federation of Magic attacked in 12 P.A., hoo boy, the quiet, subsurface fear of mages was given a vent and they were accorded the status of dangerous, although in some circles they were pitied and were attempted to be captured to "cleanse" them of magic's taint. Of course, the lure of magic in the blood is too great and very few humans can know they have magic's gift without using them.

The Coalition expertly manipulated and understood the dynamics of fear and racism. Suddenly it was no longer Humanity vs. Humanity, but Humanity vs. the Megaverse, and nothing unites the race like war. The targets were appropriate for CS propaganda because they were not of mankind. It wasn't that Humanity was not willing to share Earth; it's that they wanted to share it under their own management. Control is a penultimate human trait and the Coalition represented and embodied the need and ability to control the environment that had been lacking for the 200 years before its existence.

Of course, this is the theory. Not all of Humanity is behind the move to exterminate or relocate all of the deebs who come through. But you must remember that to the typical person, this is simply how life is, them or us, and they'd prefer it to be them. The pot is thrown into more of a tizzy when cyborgs and Juicers are added. Cyborgs are viewed much like Psi-Stalkers used to be viewed, as useful tools to humanity but feared at the same time. The normal citizen does not understand where the idea comes from to lose your organic body or to feed it massive drugs in order to radically increase power while equally shorten lifespan. Juicers especially are very feared and seen as insane and dangerous and often amoral killing machines. To them, cyborgs at least retain some of their humanity, but Juicers go right over the edge into madness.

Humanity is also suffering from a curious withdrawl from global communication. Knowledge is power and most people don't know what is going on in the next state, much less on the other side of the world. Without that information, people feel powerless but given their own condition assume the worst. Perhaps their greatest hatred, though, is saved for collaborators. As usual, there are those elements of Humanity who welcome their enemies with open arms and work with them to "ease the transition of rule." A human who is a traitor to their own kind is the WORST sort of evil that exists in the world and even normal people who rarely do much in the grand scheme of things they will mobilize like never before to capture a traitor. The so-called Enemies of Humankind list issued by the Coalition is like the Satan List for normal people. Erin Tarn is not a scholar to them but a collaborator and a traitor to Humanity, paving the way for innumerable deebs to land, and she is most highly hated by CS citizens.

To Humanity, you see, life may be an eternal struggle, but it is for their own birthright, their planet! The most noble of causes if not the best methodology, it is the only justification in their mind that they need. Those things of man, by man, are part of that battle, and the fact that they will win is inevitable to them and sacrifices must be made in order to put forth the grand scheme of things. To most of them, Humanity is no longer merely a race, but a battle cry. The idea of individuality is subservient to the regaining of the planet.

It's a fact of life that most Rifts Earth people live in fear. In a world where things aren't always what they seem, trust doesn't come easy. This brief overview of the progression of Humanity's views hopefully will spark your mind to a number of tangents and story ideas of a deeper, more personal level.

NOTE: Racism is wrong. Absolutely. If you are stupid enough to take this as your personal philosophy and run out and join a Hate Group, I hope you die a quick death to purge the gene pool of your idiocy. This is a look at the game of Rifts and its predominant views, not to be construed as support for your intolerance.

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