The United States of America in Earth Kaf has taken a darker turn than the one you might be familiar with.
A series of high profile crimes, terrorist attacks and political assassinations from the mid 90s throughout the 2000s shook the the nation to its core, leading to draconian security laws, flirtations with fascism, an intensely militarized nation and a jingoist streak. While it hasn’t happened yet, there have been national discussions on the temporary suspension of certain civil liberties in times of crisis, the government is playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship with rival powers and a resurgence of proxy wars and covert destabilization efforts have become standard.
While the rise of Parahumans was once met with trepidation at best, this new America has embraced capes - in a manner of speaking. Intense propaganda efforts are aimed towards portraying Heroes as Patriots, American Heroes leading the nation in these uncertain times. Villains are often cast as low-lives, cowards, thugs, all in an effort to push Parahumans towards legal occupations. To some extent this has worked, Heroes are seen in an extremely positive light, and many blindly overlook the faults and failings of these heroes, idealizing them.
The effect on villains though has backfired to a degree. Many are seen as sleek, alluring, mysterious, dangerous, an apt comparison being how the efforts to demonize rap music in the 90s lead to a certain mystique and mythologizing of aspects of the industry.
Together, it’s lead to a fever pitch of emotions towards capes in the USA. Everyone has an opinion on the cape scene, most intensely so. Some call for the execution of captured Villains, others want to see licensed movies of the most impressive bad guys. Many view prominent Heroes with an admiration reminiscent of fanaticism, Rogues can often make good money simply by banking on the prestige that Capes intrinsically have in this climate.
Of course, with as much love and zeal that the ‘good’ capes, Hero, Rogue, and Villain alike can earn, the ‘bad’ villains are viewed with a level of hatred that is both stunning and frightening. Burnings-in-effigy have been known to happen, captured ‘bad’ villains are at a real risk of being shot by ordinary citizens that might view themselves a ‘martyr’ while the Villain is being transported, and if they are ever unmasked their families and loved ones are often in real and immediate danger.
Sometimes history takes a dramatic turn, an event that was the culmination of a million other things both sealing off and creating new opportunities. While the the United States of Earth Kaf has a multitude of differences from the ones you may be used to, three significant events took the nation down the road it’s on now.
The ‘92 Superbowl bombing
The oil crises of the late 80s were only exaggerated by the emergence of Parahuman-assisted economic, monetary and finance manipulation. When the Gulf War occured, Venezuela’s government came to believe that a US-backed Coup was imminent, causing a crackdown, mass arrests and even more deeply strained tensions between the two countries. The Navy’s Atlantic Fleet was eventually deployed near the Venezuelan cost, a show of force that ended disastrously when the Venezuelan Navy puffed it’s chest and came within spitting distance of the Atlantic Fleet. Reports vary on who shot first, and why, but the reality of the situation was the US declaring war. Within weeks the United Socialist Party was out, the nation occupied and the beginnings of a puppet government were being installed.
The old powers managed one last stunning act of revenge. During the ‘92 Superbowl, a low-yield nuclear weapon was smuggled just outside of the stadium in Minneapolis and detonated, killing over 200,000 civilians. The US watched in confusion and then horror at the bombing.
‘06 Nationals Park Killings
At an long-running annual baseball game supposed to build camaraderie amongst both wings of Congress, a militia known as the Kentucky Revolutionary Longsmen, angry about what it perceived as the trampling of civil rights by the government opened fire. Aided by a for-hire Villain Mastermind, Taskmaster, the casualties they inflicted were stunning, killing 30 and injuring 52 before they were stopped, most of the Militia dead. Among the dead were the Speaker of the House, multiple high-ranking leaders of both parties, and Vice President Cheney.
Of course it lead to increased security measures, which some called ‘unpatriotic.’ Besides changes to the mission of federal agencies like the FBI, it spawned a wave of paid informants and moles across the country, initially targeting far and extremist political groups, moving in to elements considered ‘destabilizing’. It remained a secret for almost five years, till a newspaper published a stunning expose that was promptly minimized, diverted from and discredited. The name and the ‘branding’ of the programs changed, their purpose did not, and that newspaper is no longer in business.
‘10 Temporal Black Hole Event
On August 23 2010, a Tinkertech bomb exploded on a bridge over the Willamette River, running through the heart of downtown Portland. Within seconds, a cloud of darkness covered the entire city center. From the outside, citizens and authorities watched in horror as the clouded area began speeding up, a time compression field gone awry. Rescuers found themselves being torn apart as they tried to enter the field, as their bodies could not handle running at different speeds. Portland was forced to watch as their friends and family aged and died within the event horizon what came to be dubbed the "temporal black hole event".
Due to the positioning of the field taking place directly in the river, the time anomaly resulted in mass flooding in the surrounding areas, along with widespread disruption of power and transit. Eventually, however, after hundreds of thousands died in a post-apocalyptic bubble of accelerated time (along with thousands dying from looting and flooding outside), the bubble collapsed with no warning.
To the outside world, only a week had passed. A combination of radiocarbon dating, analysis of the ruins, and outside observations, showed that twenty-seven years had gone by on the inside.
The investigation remarks on the case of one Forrest Branson, one of less than a hundred survivors. He was trapped inside the event horizon with his father, while his twin brother John was outside. John Branson found his brother, one week later, had become a 37-year-old with children of his own. Every survivor has such a story to tell.
Today, reconstruction of the downtown Portland site continues, with rehabilitation ongoing for the victims. The Tinker responsible for the time bomb was killed inside the anomaly shortly after it appeared. His only remains are a set of charred bones, stored in the PRT archives.
Together, these three initiatives have led to a markedly more aggressive, jingoist and expansionist United States, shaping the Cape community, and to some extent the rest of the world, to be viewed in sometimes stark and usually unfair assessments.