The World of Double Cross

The world of Double Cross is a place much like our own, but darker and more dangerous.

Set in an alternate, slightly darker present, after a decade of violence, terrorism, and madness has plagued the globe, the world is more insular and more dangerous than at any point in recent history. Many nations have turned in on themselves, descending into civil war and economic collapse, while others close their borders and look at every citizen as a potential anarchist.

In general, the average person’s life is much as it was before. Technology has marched on. The computers are smaller and more powerful, the televisions are flatter and wider, and cell phone reception has become near-universal. Even in the midst of technological miracles, however, a general sense of dissatisfaction pervades every level of society.

The rich get richer, but they’re also more worried about being targeted by criminals. The middle class shrinks and the lower class grows with every passing year. The gap between the rich and poor widens, and the anger over it grows. The wealthy turn their homes into virtual fortresses, while more and more hardworking citizens go hungry. Some turn to violence out of desperation, but this hardly explains the meteoric rise in violent crime rates globally for the last decade or so.

There is also a pervasive feeling of paranoia, as though something huge and terrible lurks just out of sight for most people. Most first world governments have turned into de facto police states, silently observing normal citizens through their internet and phone records, putting cameras up in almost every public place in the big cities, and watching from orbit with repurposed Cold War spy satellites.

Perhaps the worst of it is the sense of isolation and loneliness that seems to be endemic among the youth and adults of the current generation. Even as technology brings the world closer together, people have never felt more alone. The government doesn’t listen to its citizens. The rich don’t listen to the poor. The corporations don’t listen to their employees. Parents cage their children, countries cage their citizens on the slightest pretext, and life itself cages people in dead-end jobs.

None of this is coincidence.

For the last twenty years, the world has been getting darker. Humanity has been infected by the Renegade Virus, a disease that some believe to be either alien in origin or incredibly ancient. Regardless of its true origins, the virus rapidly spread across the globe two decades ago, finally reaching a global infection rate of nearly 80 percent. Most people have little to no effect from their infection, acting only as dormant carriers. Some find their aggression, paranoia, or hopelessness amplified by the virus. A small number have something far worse happen.

In a few people, the Renegade Virus expresses itself in the form of rapid mutation and supernatural powers. A few of these learn to control their powers and suppress the infection, becoming Overeds. Far more fall to madness and depravity as the disease consumes their minds and twists their flesh, becoming Gjaums.

The activities of Renegade-active (or R+) beings have been passed off by various government agencies as the actions of malcontents and terrorists, even as they work to cast a tighter net around these genetic deviants. The public can’t know about the Renegade Virus—if they did, it would cause mass panic, riots, perhaps even the collapse of governments. So, for twenty years, the international position at the highest levels has been suppression, secrecy, and security.

One global organization exists to deal with the Renegade Virus crisis, the United Guardian Network. Acting in perfect secrecy, this organization’s existence is known only to a few members of the United Nations Security Council, and the top members of a few governments. While this agency supposedly operates with the full faith and openness of its member countries, it is widely suspected that some countries are operating their own programs for dealing with the Renegade Virus.

In a few cases, this suspicion is certainly justified—the Americans are barely secretive about their Tempest Initiative, while the informal group calling themselves “the Strangers” operating within the Japanese SDF barely qualifies as an organization and more of an network of old friends who all happen to be in on the secret. The terrorist network calling itself False Hearts is the most organized group in open opposition to the UGN, but other groups are suspected of existing, including a mafia-like group currently known only as “the Guildsmen.”

While the media has some inkling that something unusual is going on, and while the internet is full of conspiracy theories, the various first-world governments have been remarkably adept at covering up the Renegade Virus in the name of “national security.” It gets more difficult to hide the truth every day, however, and the UGN is preparing itself against the day when suppression is no longer possible.

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