Rise of the Megacorps

So how did we get into this mess, anyway? While most people experience life as an augmented-reality-enhanced shopping spree or as a neverending stream of hypnotizing entertainment experiences, the rest of us see things quite a bit differently – and they’re not a cheery shade of rose. When your daily concern is scoring enough nuyen to eat and watching your back against your fellow shadow denizens, you know there’s significant room for improvement with the world.

Seretech & Shiawase

Imagine this: it’s the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st, and corporate entities are growing more powerful with each passing year. The Citizens United decision had already given them the rights of individuals and money was long established as a form of free speech. Increasingly unwilling to entrust the safety and security of their assets and personnel to public law-enforcement organizations, these entities gradually began supplementing them with their own private security forces – forces that, far from stereotypical doughnut-eating “rent-a-cops”, grow more and more to resemble paramilitary groups armed with the best equipment available. Many of these had already been hardened in the field fighting the ‘War on Terror’ which was the first stages of the Resource Rush.

But first things first. During the worst year ever (it was also the year I was born. Mom joked for a few years that I was the herald of the End of Days. After that better candidates came along) thanks to a three-month-long truckers’ strike, no fresh food was coming into New York City. Food riots broke out and the whole city was engulfed in violence. Unfortunately it also engulfed a Seretech Med-Research truck hauling infectious waste. A running battle erupted between Seretech security personnel and the mobs – who were convinced the truck was carrying food – and ended up at one of the firm’s medical research facilities. To make a long story short, it resulted in a bloodbath and kicked off city, state and federal charges of criminal negligence aimed at Seretech.

Thank the Supreme Court for their decision. Seretech claimed that defending the truck from the mob ensured that its cargo didn’t get out and create worse scenarios, and the Supreme Court agreed. They upheld the corp’s right to maintain an armed force for the protection of its personnel and property. Corps 1, World 0.

Late the next year, things heated up when the radical eco-group TerraFirst! Allegedly attacked a Shiawase Inc. nuclear power plant. Shiawase security forces repelled the attack, but used the incident as an excuse to advance their position that public law enforcement was insufficient to provide the kinds of protection it and other large corporations required. In the end, the Supreme Court, in its supreme wisdom granted multinational corporations the same rights and privileges as foreign governments, establishing corporate extraterritoriality in what came to be know as “The Shiawase Decision.” Later on, TerraFirst! Would gets its hands on evidence proving that Shiawase and a few other corps had conspired to stage the attack, but this evidence was destroyed when a bomb wrecked the group’s California office and killed several key members. Suspicions are strong that the bomb was planted by one of the first shadowrunners – welcome to the Sixth World.

What does this mean for you? It means that you now know why getting caught stealing Ares R&D while on Ares property is one of the worst career moves you could ever make, but being able to skip off onto another corp’s property while hanging onto Ares goods may mean living to steal another day.

Resource Rush

Meanwhile, the corps suddenly realized what sort of power lay in their hands and acted quickly to exploit the hell out of it. Not even a year after the Shiawase Decision, the United States government invoked ‘eminent domain’ to bring property under its control, and then licensed its exploitation to corporate sponsors. Corporations were snapping up these opportunities left and right, and they didn’t care whose toes they stepped on in the bargain. After the public lands like national parks were accounted for, this usually meant looting Native American reservation lands of resources – a practice that the Amerindians, understandably, were less than pleased about.

Lone Eagle Incident

The more radical among the Native Americans formed the Sovereign American Indian Movement (SAIM) to fight the corporate takeovers. They didn’t do much but talk for several years until United Oil Industries acquired the rights to the petrochemical resources in one-tenth of the remaining reservations. Having had enough, SAIM responded by capturing a missile silo at the US Air Force’s Shiloh Launch Facility in northwest Montana, then threatened to launch the missiles unless the US government and the corps returned all the land taken from them.

Predictably, the government pretended to initiate talks and then sent in the Delta Team anti-terrorist squad. The Deltas recaptured the silo but not before someone “accidentally” launched a Lone Eagle ICBM toward the Russian Federation. Everyone thought for sure this was the beginning of the end, but amazingly, the warheads never hit. To this day no one knows how that happened, though a million and one theories have been advanced and everyone (including me) has tried in vain to find out.

When the public got wind of what happened, the “Lone Eagle Incident” (as it was being called) became a propaganda tool against SAIM and all Native Americans. Adding insult to injury, the US Congress passed the Re-Education and Relocation Act just months after it was introduced. This act added SAIM and anyone even suspected of being connected with them to growing list of ‘terrorist organizations’ that could be arrested and indefinitely detained. At the same time, Canada’s Parliament passed the Nepean Act, which legitimized internment camps for Native Americans. Both acts were thoroughly abused, with thousands of innocent Native Americans sent to “re-education centers” throughout the next year. Many of them never returned. It would be over a year and a half before the survivors were freed.

United Oil

Meanwhile, the original culprits were facing trouble in Texas. It seems that a gang of homeless, unemployed workers stormed the United Oil Industries headquarters in Dallas, demanding that the “fascist corporations” be held accountable for the city’s financial and criminal problems. To meet this obviously formidable threat, the governor of Texas called in the Texas Ranger Assault Teams. After the smoke cleared, the state legislature passed laws giving corporate security forces carte blanche in dealing with armed intruders.

But Texas was not alone; other places around the world were passing similar laws. They created urban militia units armed with military weaponry and gave residents the right to contract private security firms to protect their communities with lethal force. Sound familiar? That’s because this was the basis upon which Lone Star, the rent-a-cops we all love to hate, was formed. You can thank Texans for that.

Japanese Imperial State

But let’s go back a couple of years and across the Pacific to Japan for a moment. Japan had just emerged from the Great Recession as a major economic power. In the last few years, South Korea (backed by Japanese corporate interests) had declared war on North Korea. So what did North Korea do? They launched missiles at Japan in a fruitless effort to get the Japanese to abandon their support. The missiles didn’t detonate (funny how that happens) and North Korea was overrun by the end of the year. Feeling rather buff at this point, Japan renamed itself the Japanese Imperial State – clearly evoking pre-WWII glory days.

That’s not all. The JIS followed this by deploying the first of a fleet of solar-powered collection satellites to beam microwave energy to receptors on the Earth’s surface. This relatively cheap method of distributing power to isolated regions allowed Japan to instigate a virtual economic takeover of the Third World. After that, Japan re-emerged as a military power, and it would exercise that power later on the people of the Philippines and San Francisco.

Hold that thought.

Rise of the Megacorps

Lost in the Shadows Manyfacesof Manyfacesof