Nightmares of Futures Past

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Picture, if you will, a world gone insane. A world where you cannot attend school, buy food or clothing, or even walk down the street without risking capture and imprisonment. Add to that picture, if you can, the specter of giant, killing robots programmed to hunt and destroy you and everyone like you.

This is the world waiting for you in Nightmares of Futures Past. Mutants have been declared outlaws and enemies, stripped of their constitutional rights, and condemned to quick death in battle or slow death in concentration camps. The heroes of our time are gone, either killed fighting oppression, stripped of their powers and locked away, or hiding in shadows, chipping away at the walls of oppression and struggling to survive as free men and women.

The Mutant Affairs Control Act

As it is with almost all super-powered characters, the general public was skeptical about the existence of mutants. While super-powered heroes and villains could be found almost anywhere in the world, and all across the United States, they were highly visible only in New York City and, to a lesser extent, Los Angeles. A surprisingly large portion of the population was unwilling to believe those outlandish tales about people who could fly, crush trains with their hands, or shoot ray beams from their eyes. Headlines from the coasts concerning the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and their costumed friends were dismissed as journalistic stunts designed to increase sales. A few people were convinced by television documentaries and magazine articles but most dismissed the whole subject as a massive hoax.

The uproar preceding release of Alison Blaire's film demonstrated just how insecure everyone really was. When word got out that the film starred a mutant, public outcry bordered on hysteria. Posters were defaced, theaters promoting the film were boycotted or vandalized, and hundreds of newspaper, radio, and television editorials spoke out against the "clear and present danger" of mutant infiltration in mainstream human society. The film 's distributors were eventually forced to shelve the project and the film was never released.

The public has a short memory and the furor died down quickly when the film's demise was announced. A small but vocal minority, however, clung to the issue, agitating against mutants, putting up anti-mutant graffiti, and attacking suspected mutants in the streets or even in their homes. The situation gradually but inexorably grew worse.

It Hits the Fan

Gradually, that is, until the assassination of Senator (and presidential candidate) Robert Kelly by the Second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Kelly had long been a spokesman for anti-mutant forces. The need to deal with the "mutant menace" was a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. He was murdered on Halloween, 1980, while moderating senate hearings on the mutant situation. Also killed were Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert, who were present to testify on behalf of mutants. The attack was filmed by several television news teams and subsequently seen by millions of viewers on news broadcasts. (The same footage appeared repeatedly in the following years in a multitude of anti-mutant documentaries and news specials.)

Instead of teaching humans to fear and respect the power of mutants, as the Brotherhood intended, the assassinations created a wave of hysterical paranoia and cemented a largely apathetic public into one solid block opposing mutants' rights.

The massive outpouring of rage, hatred, and racism following Kelly's death gave the anti-mutant movement the legitimacy it had long craved. Suddenly, when mutant-haters spoke, everyone listened. The simple fact that mutants existed and wielded unknown powers frightened the pants off the average citizen. The public demanded action.

Kelly's Legacy

Carried on a rising tide of public support, mutant control became an issue in political contests at every level, from city council to United States Senate. In 1984 an anti-mutant reactionary was elected president. Within a year, the Mutant Affairs Control Act was pushed through the congressional meatgrinder. Presidential support was a key element in the passage of the bill.

The passage of this bill marked a low point in the constitutional evolution of the United States rivaling the issuance of Executive Order 9066 in January 1942, which led directly to the dislocation and internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans living on the Pacific coast.

The similarity between the two documents was not lost on anyone. The precedent of Executive Order 9066 was brought up immediately by legal counselors on both sides of the issue. Unlike Executive Order 9066, the Mutant Affairs Control Act was brought before the Supreme Court almost immediately, where it was struck down as a wholesale violation of constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

Unfortunately, the White House, while publicly discouraged, was not deterred. (Years later, when the actual chain of events became known publicly, there was some speculation that the Mutant Affairs Control Act was never intended to be anything but a smoke screen, diverting public attention away from the Sentinels program.) Within a month of the bill's demise, the president instructed the National Security Council to establish (illegally) a covert commission geared specifically toward dealing with the mutant situation. This ad hoc group, dubbed Project Wideawake, was headed by Judge Petrie, the president's national security advisor. It included Valerie Cooper (special assistant to Petrie), Frank Lowell (C.I.A.), Raven Darkholme (defense department), Henry Peter Gyrich (National Security Council, head of operations), and many other influential members of the American intelligence community.

The fact that Raven Darkholme served as a member of the commission deserves special consideration. Unknown to any of her colleagues, Darkholme was in reality the mutant terrorist Mystique, leader of the Second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Her position on the project could easily have compromised any program. The nature of Mystique, however, was such that she allowed the project to carry out its anti-mutant mission with minimal interference. She did not use her unique position to warn other mutants of their danger; she sought only to safeguard herself and other members of the Brotherhood.

Mutant Control

Project Wideawake wasted no time before jumping into action against mutants. The first issue that needed to be dealt with was how mutants should be handled. One group felt that cooperative mutants and other super beings should be enlisted to round up the dangerous mutants. Others felt that mutants should be put to work, but only under close guard in situations where their powers are largely neutralized. A third faction urged that all mutants be destroyed on sight, with no exceptions.

Eventually the second viewpoint, championed by National Security Council veteran Gyrich, won out. Project objectives were formulated along the following lines:

  1. The mutant "X-factor" is spreading at an alarming rate. Unless checked somehow, it will be present in a significant portion of the population (homo superior) within four to five generations. Measures must be taken to reduce the incidence of the X-factor by removing those carrying it from the gene pool or by restricting their freedom to produce offspring.
  2. Many mutants possess great physical and mental powers. Past experience demonstrates that they are very often willing to use these powers for advancement of their own goals without regard for the laws or ultimate good of human society (homo sapiens). There is no reason to believe that this will change.
  3. Normal means of confinement are adequate for the majority of mutants whose powers are minimal or benign. Normal means of confinement are useless, however, against the small number of very powerful, well-trained mutants. Extraordinary means involving advanced technological devices are the only alternative.
  4. Denied the option of confinement, the only alternative is permanent removal of the mutants' powers or extermination of the mutant population.

Sentinels Reborn

As Project Wideawake went about its business, it became more and more evident that conventional means were wholly inadequate to deal with mutants. Of all the country's police forces, military forces, and intelligence agencies, only one-SHIELD-was equipped to locate or arrest mutants. SHIELD, still under the autonomous control of Nick Fury, refused to deal with Gyrich or with Project Wideawake. (In the turmoil to come, SHIELD would have more than one run-in with Project Wideawake.)

After a fiery confrontation with Fury over SHIELD's cooperation, Petrie and Gyrich decided to avoid enlisting any outside agencies to their cause for any activity besides information gathering; they realized that bringing in other people risked exposing the Project to public scrutiny. Since the Project's whole existence was illegal, any risk in this area was too great.

Instead, Project directors decided to create their own enforcement division. With this in mind, they secretly contacted Shaw Industries and arranged to resurrect the Sentinel program.

The Beginning of the End

Initially, Shaw Industries manufactured three models of sentinels for Project Wideawake: Mark IV, Mark V, and Mark VI.

Individually, these sentinels were not as powerful as earlier generations had been. Experience is a great teacher, however, and the tactics employed by the sentinels were improved significantly. Although they were capable of independent operation, the sentinels (at first, anyway) were always accompanied by human controllers whenever they were sent on potentially hazardous missions or into situations that could escalate into open combat.

Sentinels, however, have always been unpredictable, and those built by Shaw Industries were no exception. They were programmed with a broad-based directive to "protect humans against the menace of mutant domination of society." Despite their reduced intelligence and increased reliance on human direction, the sentinels as a group arrived at the conclusion that the best way to carry out their program was to assume control of Project Wideawake, thereby eliminating the moderating influence of the humans.

Within a few years of ousting humans from Project Wideawake, sentinels controlled all of North America. The eastern seaboard was largely in ruins, along with most of California. The U.S. army was reduced to a traction of its former size-a precaution enforced by the sentinels to ensure their dominance. SHIELD was the last of the intelligence agencies to be challenged, and it put up a heroic fight. In the end, less than 15 percent of SHIELD's personnel and equipment escaped to the wilds of Canada to form the backbone of the Canadian Resistance Army.

The program adopted by the sentinels was simple and merciless. All mutants, whether dangerous or harmless, were to be arrested and interned in prison camps away from population centers. Anyone who interfered with the sentinels' mission or protected mutants was also subject to arrest and internment. Anyone who resisted was killed.

The X-Factor

X-factor is the term that describes mutant genes in general. The X-factor is the mysterious genetic something that gives mutants their power, sets them apart, and puts them at odds with society.

This chapter describes the demographics of the X-factor, public sentiment toward mutants, and the general condition of North America under sentinel control.

Who's Got It?

A mutant is any plant or animal whose genetic or cellular structure is different from its parents' and has been since birth. The Marvel universe is fi lled with characters whose genetic structure has been altered-Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Hulk-but they are not true mutants because they were normal humans at birth. Likewise, if the child of Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and the Vision displays the power to alter probability fields, he is not a mutant because this power was passed to him by his mother. Franklin Richards, on the other hand, is a mutant, because his powers are entirely different from those possessed by his parents.

The actual percentage of the population that is mutant is difficult to estimate. Spokesmen for the anti-mutant movement have quoted figures as high as 8 percent, but this is generally considered to be way out of line. The sentinels, who probably have access to the most accurate information, estimate that the true mutant population of North America prior to the sentinel takeover was just under 1 percent.

Even this figure seems outrageously high until you consider that very few of these mutants had "super powers." Most had very minor abilities, or no special abilities at all, because of their mutations. Unfortunately, all of these distinctions were insignificant to the sentinels; to them, a mutant was a mutant, regardless of how its mutation manifested itself. A much larger proportion of people could be classified as " anomalous" humans; they are not mutants themselves, but possess a high probability of having mutant offspring. This class of people comprises roughly 18 percent of the population.

The Caste System

The stratification of society began with registration. Within one month of inauguration, the 1984 administration ordered that everyone must report to the local civil authorities to register for an identification card. At the time of application an organic scan was performed along with a blood test to determine the applicant's class. If the applicant was human, an identification card was issued and he was free to go. If the applicant was found to be anomalous or a mutant he was issued a special identification card. Mutants were also given generic inhibitor collars which prevented the use of most mutant powers. They were required to wear these collars at all times. The three classes of society- humans, anomalous humans, and mutants-were sharply defined and mutually exclusive.

Beyond these restrictions, life went on pretty much as before.

No Mutants Allowed

Shortly after registration was completed, the government and local authorities began issuing directives. They were harmless at first, intended mainly to harass, but quickly escalated to place severe restrictions on mutants and anomalous humans.

One of the first directives required that all mutants and anomalous humans wear an identifying letter: a large M or A stencilled on the back and front of all clothing. Other restrictions, such as those listed below, followed shortly.

Mutants and anomalous humans are forbidden to bear children.

Mutants are forbidden to live in apartment buildings or multi-family dwellings which also house genetically pure humans. All mutants currently living in such dwellings must move.

Identification cards must be presented when purchasing the following goods: food, liquor, gasoline, books, cigarettes, electronic equipment, tools, radios, weapons, clothing, shoes, airline/train/bus tickets.

Mutants are forbidden to work or eat in public restaurants not set aside for use specifically by mutants.

Mutants are forbidden in public parks and museums. Mutant children must be withdrawn from public schools.

Mutants are forbidden to ride public transportation.

Mutants are forbidden to be treated in hospitals or clinics which are not set aside for the sole treatment of mutants.

All mutant organizations, societies, newsletters, and professional unions are illegal.

The key to all of these restrictions was registration. Without the voluntary cooperation of the people who registered, events could have gone quite differently.

The Decline of Western Civilization

In short order, anomalous humans became outcasts. Most of their businesses were bankrupted by the loss of all human customers. Anomalous humans were forbidden to have children, so their neighborhoods gradually grow older and older, with no new faces, until eventually they die out completely.

But even their fate seems enviable compared to that of mutants. Housing restrictions forced mutants and anomalous humans to move on short notice, almost invariably into slums and ghettoes where they were miserable apartments. Denied education, medicine, and legal advice, they banded together to form their own schools and clinics. Then these, too, were outlawed as "mutant organizations." With most of their markets and food co-ops eliminated, they were forced to buy from licensed racketeers or rely on government rations to survive.

The Roundup

About this time, Project Wideawake received shipment of its first sentinels. Ostensibly the sentinels were to hunt down those mutants who had refused to register and were operating illegal underground newspapers, trying to smuggle mutants out of the country, or carrying out other subversive or illegal acts.

Before long, the sentinels shifted their emphasis away from searching out unregistered mutants to rounding up all mutants, registered and unregistered, for confinement in "Mutant Internment Centers." No one outside of Project Wideawake knows for sure whether this change was ordered by the government or was undertaken independently by the sentinels, but the sentinels had the full cooperation of all government departments.

At that point, the United States disintegrated. The anti-mutant program relied on the quiet cooperation of the majority of humans. anomalous humans, and mutants. People had cooperated, for various reasons: humans because they feared mutants; mutants and anomalous humans because they were outnumbered and because cooperation allowed them to maintain a semblance of their normal, family life. When the sentinels began arresting mutants, family ties were ignored. Children were taken from their families, parents were taken from their children, husbands and wives were taken from each other. Threatened with losing their loved ones, mutants and their families fought back. Those mutants with super powers attacked sentinels and demolished their bases. People of all sorts ambushed police patrols. A tidal wave of assassinations rolled across the country, leaving hundreds of mayors, police chiefs, and mutant control council administrators dead.

The sentinels struck back ferociously. Benign mutants (those without extraordinary powers) were locked into concentration camps. Virulent mutants (those with extraordinary powers) and resisters were executed immediately.

The country turned into a war zone. Cities burned or were demolished by the sentinels. Telephone and radio communication was almost entirely cut off. Unable to control the sentinels and powerless to stop them, the federal government was useless.

As more and more of the country fell under the sentinels' control, the violence quieted down. There were simply not enough mutants left to fight. Many were dead, and those who survived were behind barbed wire. The few mutants still at large were scattered and isolated.

This is the situation when the adventure begins.