Note: A timeline of the sixth world follows here, but one that is very, VERY far from extensive. There are more full timelines on time that cover the very many events I am missing, and when you have the time I recommend scanning through one of them. However, what I am writing now will give you a workable understanding of the situation. None of the events of my campaign will hinge on anything I not included in my timeline, although it is entirely conceivable that they may come up on their own.
Late 1990s-Megacorps rise in power and influence, and gain rights to extraterritoriality, granting them sovereign status within their own property.
2010-VITAS pathogen wipes out 25% of world population.
2011-The Awakening: children begin to be born with “deformities” (they were later understood to be elves and dwarves). Supernatural events occur worldwide, dragons appear, and certain humans realize magical potential within themselves.
2012-The Great Dragon Dunzelkahn announces himself for a television interview during which he explains the situation: magic enters and leaves the world in cycles.
Over the next decade, the United States (as well as other nations) fractures into several smaller states, among which are California Free, several Native American nations, and the elven nation of Tir Tairngire.
2021-10% of adult world population suddenly metamorphoses into trolls and orks. Over the next few decades, world turmoil ensues, due at different points to economic collapse and catastrophic technological events.
2055-Matrix crash hits worldwide. All computers everywhere are rendered useless. While the world does recover from this and eventually rebuilds the matrix. Two new realities enter into the world: sentient artificial intelligences and technomancers: those capable of accessing and controlling technology without any device. Both are considered threats…and often prove themselves to be so, although their struggle for legitimacy is ongoing. Many AI organizations are fighting a promising campaign to gain SIN rights.
2057-The Great Dragon Dunzelkahn is elected president of the UCAS (the country made of the remains of the former USA and Canada), but he is shortly assassinated. Under his will, his vast wealth is dealt out in ways inscrutable to others, perhaps enacting some final plan of his.
2075-Now. I know how huge a jump it is between 2057 and 2075, but really I don’t know what details are incredibly important, but I think you can get the general ideas: the world has been reshaping. New magics and technologies have bred new loves, hates, crimes, and law. Corporations now have their own laws and their own private security forces to ensure them. They need discreet, expendable assets to fight their secret wars for supremacy. They need you. Get ready, everyone. Start running. But first you need to know where you are. You are now in the city of Amistad, likely trying to unlock the secrets of the big Black Box. And it has many secrets indeed, chief among them the following: where did it come from? But I should start at the beginning. (Keep in mind that everything I write in the next sections is considered common knowledge. I.e. these are all things it would be reasonable for your character to know.)
March 7th 2065, the world was shocked by the events that surrounded a small area halfway along the coast in the disputed area between Tir Tairngire and California. It was shocked at the size of the explosion that broke open the northern wall of the city. It was surprised by the organization displayed by the multicultural test subjects who orchestrated their escape. But mostly the world was surprised because before then it did not know that the city of Amistad existed.
Early in the afternoon, smoke billowed from the horizon north of California and south of Tir Tairngire. Small military forces were dispatched from both nations, who came upon a sight that astounded them. A great black cube a half mile of each side stood dark and imposing not far from the shores of the pacific, and just outside its northern walls a battle was being waged. Or rather…it had just been finished. The denizens of the city had recently broken out, and by the time military forces arrived, they were standing bleary eyed in the sunlight and assessing their new situation: where were they? How did they get here? What should they do about the armies approaching from either side?
Indeed, the city was a mystery, to its inhabitants as much as to its discoverers. No one knew where it had come from, or how long it had been there. No one knew its purpose or its origins. Or at least no one was saying. The people now inhabiting it claim themselves to be test subjects, but offer no explanation as to what the tests were designed to prove. According to what they say themselves, even they do not know what happened to them before they worked together to defeat their captors (none of whom have ever been found), or where they came from before that. Judging by appearance and known languages, the test subjects were picked up from all around the globe, but for what purpose? As far as they have said, they did not know.
What they knew for sure was that they had one another. Out of fear of the sources massing outside the Black Box, it inhabitants withdrew inside and began to sure up their defenses, occasionally sending small parties out to communicate. Remembering the name of the slave ship whose captives once fought for and then legally won their freedom, they gave the city a name: Amistad. The city of freedom. They believed they would stand as a shining example to the dispossessed and abused in the world. They believed they would be joined by thousands, becoming a spearhead in a new movement dedicated to breaking the hold the megacorps had on the sixth world. They believed that soon the world would show them they were not alone. This promptly did not happen.
Neither Tir Tairngire nor California admitted any knowledge of the city, nor did they order the (slowly growing) armies at its borders move towards it. They knew that doing so could prove an act of war, but it has been speculated that one of the countries is the true reason behind the city’s existence, but did not want to admit to the kidnapping of and experimentation upon thousands of people. The megacorporations had no such fears. Seeing that no government lay any claim upon Amistad, they viewed the situation as an opportunity to gain themselves a free, self-sufficient (if slightly damaged) arcology, with untold research and developments held within. The only thing standing in their way was a ragtag band of confused escapees, right?
The many ensuing difficulties stemmed from two sources. First, the denizens of Amistad, proved to be astonishingly coordinated, and defended themselves competently from the many cursory incursions attempted in the early days after the breakout. No one who was not wanted in the city got farther than the outer wall. By the time the megacorporations realized the necessity for full scale assaults, they began to encounter a second issue: one another. Soon major forces funded by Renraku, EvoCorp, and Ares Macrotechnology realized they were on a collision course for Amistad. The only eventuality was the first true war between megacorps if they did not stop. And so…they stopped. But many did not leave. Rather, curiosity with the city flourished, and with the creation of AmSec, so did the city itself.
The reasons Amistad’s citizens created Amistad Security (or AmSec, for short), have been argued since it first happened. Some say they realized that the world was coming one way or another, so they figured they had best find a way to control the influx of outside attention. Some said that it was necessary for them to remain in the city and protect its secrets. After all, every city needs food and water, and the supplies inside could not last forever. (Of course, this begs a few questions. What is the purpose of building an arcology that is not self sufficient? Where were they getting their resources before the breakout occurred?) Again, no one knows for sure, but what they do know is that AmSec holds a firm grasp on the city that it has no intention of releasing.
AmSec holds tight control of the inside of the arcology, taking care to be aware of who and what goes inside. They fund themselves primarily by leasing real estate in and around the city to megacorps, but to a lesser extent by taxation of goods entering and leaving the area. The abundant energy resources provided by the arcology’s generator, and prospect of finding new technologies within the city make it a desirable location for megacorps who have flocked to the area and set up offices and research and development facilities. Of course, where these powers go, so did workers. Factories mean workers, families, and all the comforts that people with money expect to be able to spend it on. It also means shadowrunners, many eager to find a city where they will have a clean slate and the promise of paid work.
By January 2075 the city is now a thriving hub of progress, research, scum, and villainy that any modern city would be proud to call itself. The search for secrets continues, but AmSec is keeping a tight hold on things. The city approaches its tenth anniversary since the world learned of its existence, and a celebration is in the works. If anything has been discovered, no one is talking. Yet. As it stands, the secrets of the Black Box have yet to be revealed.
Facts to keep in mind
To the west of the city are its docks, which supply many of its needs from outside and take out many of its exports. Tir Tairngire and California maintain military presences at a distance from the city, to the north and south respectively. Members of the military are not allowed inside the city on official business, although each country maintains an embassy within the city walls. To the north of the Tir Tairngire army is a deep forest. East lies a small airstrip that suffices for passengers entering and leaving the city. All ships entering or leaving are subject to inspection, and any who refuse may be detained for investigation.
Immediately outside the walls of the arcology, low income housing and less well funded factories sprawl, with quality of living decreasing the farther away they get from the city. AmSec mostly upholds its presence within the city itself, as well as at the docks and airstrip to inspect incoming and outgoing cargo. For the sake of security, legality is Amistad is standard, and criminal SINs are restricted here as anywhere else. Of course, there are always ways…
Within the arcology, a large tower extends from the ground to the ceiling. This houses AmSec, as well as the city’s power generation system and subject to change quantum computer, another valuable draw of the city. Because of the power of this rare computer, AmSec has proved extremely wary of any AI presence inside the city. Also, the closer a building is to the center, the better its access to power and processing capability. Hence, the more valuable the property. Buildings inside are attached to the ceiling, inside the tower, and along the walls. While most arcologies are built to optimize space, the Black Box has unusual amounts of empty areas inside itself.
Geocite is notably spotty inside the arcology. Guides are often necessary due to how unreliable maps can be. It is speculated though unconfirmed that this is an effect of the technology that kept the city concealed until the events of the breakout.
No members of AmSec have displayed magical ability, and in order to form a proper police force, Cinque quickly determined it would be necessary to supplement their numbers with specially chosen magic users, all under the special detachment known as the Quincies (named after John Quincy Adams, who successfully defended the Amistad slaves in court) was formed. These officers form a very small minority, and only those among them who prove trustworthy are alloed to rise in rank.
Joseph Cinque: Named after the leader of the slave revolt on the original ship, this troll is at the same time the leader of AmSec and de facto leader of the city. In ten years his leadership has never been challenged, or if it has no one who is not a member of AmSec has known it yet. The man is quiet, intelligent, and very well read. He keeps things close to the chest, and in ten years has never revealed anything he has not wanted to.
Leila Talbott: Second in command of AmSec, and leader of the Quincies, Leila is not an original inhabitant of the city. She enjoys her position to a conspicuous degree, and many have been forced to wonder how much she knows about the city’s secrets. Rumors that she suffers from a minor form of HMVV infection (colloquially known as vampirism) have yet to be substantiated.
Alexandra Twoshadow: Leader of the Tir Tairngire forces outside of the city. This Native American elf is remarkably young to be in her position. While all agree that she is…eccentric, all are equally assured that she is a shrewd commander when the chips are down.
Cale Anon: Second in command under Twoshadow, this elf is a fine example of the new elven aristocracy that his commander does not belong two. Rumors are that the relationship between the two is strained.
Colonel Ryan Hammond was an experienced, capable veteran considering his retirement when he first arrived in Amistad. That was ten years ago. The man (well, dwarf) swears this is his last year, and the question of who will replace him is somewhat up in the air.
Roger Gibson: Unlike with Twoshadow, the military and diplomatic responsibilities of California are split between two people. Hammond is satisfied to go easily into his retirement with a job well done and no real fuss, but newly assigned ambassador Gibson is determined to use his new position to make a name for himself by unlocking the secrets of the Black Box, and he has not been working very hard to hide it. Or he has, but he has been doing so incompetently. He very badly wants the military behind his back, and has been making motions to get someone close to him in to replace Hammond once the time comes.
Sieg: Owner and operator of the Second Wind, a shadowrunner bar unusually close to the center of the Black Box. Sieg is one of the most effective fixers in the city, but also one of the most discrete. Unusual about the friendly, albeit fast talking man, is that he has a standing offer to his runners: he is willing to forgo part or all of his fee as fixer for information about the ops he sets up for his runners. Usually such a proposal would be refused outright (the key to running is secrecy, after all), but for the fact the Sieg can get you jobs more lucrative than anyone in the business. Also, despite his interest in information, none of his information has ever gotten out…at least to the general public. Whoever he gives his information to isn’t talking, unless he just keeps it for himself.
Balmung: The great dragon Balmung has his offices situated in the upper northeast corner of the city. Part of his office is exposed to the outside by the hole made during the breakout. This may seem a disadvantage, but it allows him to fly freely in and out of the city. He is also known to make use of the city’s ample inside space to attend meetings at other corporation’s offices. His presence in the city is, like many things, a mystery. While never much of a presence on the world stage, in recent years certain investments of his have fallen through, leaving him nearly bankrupt. His business deals in Amistad have been keeping him above water, but it is rumored he came to the city with hopes of discovering and capitalizing on its secrets.