Recent Earth History
The Y2K issue causes havoc in several third-world countries,
but is pretty much a wet firecracker in the U.S. and Europe. The only serious effect is a very brief
surge in criminal activity, which subsides almost immediately when the
criminals realize that the police departments are not, in fact, paralyzed.
Two manufacturers test
fuel cell hybrid vehicles in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
The public’s initial reaction is cautious, but positive.
An upscale retailer specializing
in unusual items targeted at urban professionals begins to sell overcoats,
jackets, and hats that feature tactical-grade Kevlar armor plates protecting
the wearer’s chest and abdomen. Although just how much protection they provide (not being custom-fitted
or held firmly in place like real body armor) is debatable they become
an instant status symbol. By
the end of the year the first Gucci "Personal Protective System'
is available on Rodeo Drive. Sales
are brisk and there is a sharp rise in the number of applications for
concealed-carry permits among Yuppies nationwide.
The actors deviate from the script during a live Pay-Per-View professional wrestling event in Dallas, and a real fight breaks out in the ring. Terry "The Iron Ogre" Wilson, a freshman wrestler in his third professional bout, kills his opponent by crushing his rib cage in a bear hug. The referee attempted to stop the bout and the bell had rung but Wilson refused to back off. He is finally subdued and arrested. He enters an affirmative defense of "consent to combat" and states that since Texas had just rescinded its prohibition on dueling, and that since dueling was still a statutory defense to a charge of manslaughter under Texas law, that no crime had occurred. The judge has no choice but to vacate the charges. Death threats and challenges to fight “to the death” become common in wrestling events. For some strange reason, though, all ‘deathmatches’ are stopped by the police, or for a disqualification, or some such reason before anyone can be seriously hurt.
George Bush Jr. wins the
Presidency by a narrow margin over Pat Buchanen (RF) in an election marked
by the second lowest voter turnout in history.
Al Gore finishes a distant third.
The Senate swings heavily Republican, but both major parties lose
important seats in the western states to Reform candidates.
On Christmas Eve, a group of religious extremists attempt to hasten the appearance of the Jewish Messiah by attacking the Dome of the Rock during evening prayer services. Since the Messiah cannot appear until the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt, and the Dome of the Rock sits on top of the temple, they reasoned that destroying the mosque was a reasonable first step. They are not successful but casualties are high and the mosque is heavily damaged by explosive charges.
The EEC holds hearings in Prague on a secret project known as Echelon. Although most of the hearings are public,
remarkably little is learned about Echelon other than the fact that it
does exist in some form. Originally described as an anti-terrorist
intelligence operation, Echelon operates by screening electronic communications
for suspicious words and phrases that would indicate the possibility of
terrorist networking. Several groups from the conspiracy-theory
fringe allege that Echelon (and its American cousins, FIDNet and Carnivore)
is actually monitoring and archiving all electronic communications, and
not simply out of fear of terrorism. The committee holds a final, closed-door
meeting with a supposed former employee of the Echelon project.
Entering the hearing the committee is deeply split over the credibility
of the witnesses and the evidence, but when they emerge, a motion is made
to dissolve without finding. There
is no objection and the motion carries by consensus. Only one of the committee members says
anything about Echelon (publicly or privately), and that is simply to
comment that, in the case of Echelon, the end definitely justified the
A live Internet broadcast from the habitat module of the International Space Station draws huge numbers of hits, but not for the desired reasons. Two mission specialists decide to become the inaugural members of the Zero-G Club and their mutual initiation is broadcast live on the NASA, JPL, and ESA websites, as well as to thousands of cheering Australian schoolchildren (the female mission specialist is from Sydney).
Voice-controlled computers become available on a number of production
cars. Constant Internet connections
allow the driver to get traffic data, stock quotes, news, and email, all
read aloud by the car.
Scientific curiosity is
aroused when similar birth defects are found in a number of unborn infants
during routine prenatal examination. The defects include pigmentation disorders,
cerebral underdevelopment, and a semi-Neanderthal jaw structure.
The cases are scattered around the world, but always in rural or
undeveloped areas. Other
than the few that are aborted all come to term successfully. Although many make claims of “alien DNA” and “secret government
experiments”, Essex Syndrome (named for the location of the first outbreak)
is found to be caused by an engineered retrovirus that resequences several
genomes in men. If a man
with a particular gene sequence (one that produces a high level of testosterone
and is associated with adrenaline and epinephrine production) is exposed
to the retrovirus, he begins to produce damaged sperm but is not physically
altered himself. World law
enforcement agencies declare Essex to be the first incident of global
biological terrorism and launch an aggressive effort to identify those
who created it and bring them to justice.
Essex births are between one and two per 100,000.
Brian Griese leads the
Denver Broncos to their third Super Bowl title, beating the Vikings 27-24.
A computer virus known as 02.Funt’sRevenge.Trojan sends the media and the public into hysterics when CNN reports its existence. Funt’s Revenge spools images from webcams connected to the infected computer and begins to transmit streaming video when connected to the Internet. Anyone with the correct viewer is able to pick up the feed without the subject’s awareness. The applet is easily detected and removed but very few home systems have the ability to prevent the initial infection.
2003: Seven knights of the SCA, in town for Pennsic, are involved in preventing a gang rape and beating of a lesbian couple while walking through a park in Pittsburgh. A group of college students, all followers of a television evangelist who espouses “sexual reeducation” (by force if need be) of homosexuals, had kidnapped the couple as they were entering their apartment building and taken them to the park to “deprogram” them. The group had set up several video cameras to record the incident and the tapes are used to clear the knights of manslaughter charges. The knights were returning from a victory dinner and were walking to meet their ride back to the war when they heard screams and ran to investigate. The tapes recorded their demands that the women be released, as well as the assailants’ refusal. When several members of the group drew handguns, the knights charged with live steel and killed nine of their twelve opponents. At trial, each of the knights entered an affirmative defense and declared that they were not only not repentant, but proud of their actions. The trial is broadcast internationally, and receives very high ratings when the jury returns in less than half an hour with a verdict of nullification. Membership in the SCA increases substantially, and many local groups find that they have a lot fewer problems with police and park use permits afterwards.
Over the summer, Los Angeles experiences the highest temperatures of the past three decades – almost 72 straight days of 110° or better temperatures. Arsons, assaults, and shootings skyrocket. The National Guard is mobilized to keep the peace, but can do little. In late August, a snide comment by the Mayor during a press conference is met with angry protests around the City and County offices. When the Mayor orders the police to use vomit gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, a city councilwoman protests and demands the mayor use water cannons instead. The Mayor yells at her, “They’re not people! They’re uneducated cokeheads that don’t deserve any water, at all, ever again, and I’m not going to waste any on them. If they die, that’s more water for the rest of us!” Much of L.A. is in flames by morning, and when the National Guard responds, it isn’t with rubber bullets. In an investigation over the next year, it is revealed that the LAPD used the riots as an excuse to summarily execute over 200 known gang members and drug dealers.
The Essex retrovirus is traced to a white separatist group that was apparently attempting to create a race of Übermen based off of late-Fifties Soviet eugenics research. The F.B.I. attempts to arrest the group at their headquarters in Wisconsin and a standoff ensues. While the group refuses to surrender, they also deny responsibility and claim that they have been framed. After fourteen hours of negotiation, the group agrees to surrender peacefully. At trial, they maintain their innocence in the face of overwhelming physical evidence. They present no defense except to flatly state that the government had framed them. They are convicted and sentenced to life without parole. While awaiting transportation to a federal penitentiary, they are attacked by a group of black prisoners incited by a man who claimed to be an Essex carrier. The attack sparks a small riot that is quickly quelled. Afterwards, all of the separatists are dead and the man who was carrying the Essex gene is severely injured. He is rushed to a trauma unit but is pronounced dead on the scene. His remains are cremated to prevent further infection. Occurrences of Essex Syndrome continue to increase while a frantic effort is made to develop a reliable test to identify carriers.
60 Minutes unearths a 1990 CIA report to then-President Bush concerning George Jr.’s cocaine use. The President had the report buried. George Jr. was sent into rehab at Betty Ford under an assumed name. His rehab met with only moderate success, according to a 1992 follow up obtained under court order. For the first time in history, the Commander in Chief has to pee in a cup. He passes, but loses a great deal of support. His falling numbers drag his more ardent supporters down with him, although many are fleeing his side like rats from the Bismarck.
Late in the year a screening test for Essex Syndrome is developed and deployed. Treatment for the carriers is still being researched. An Essex baby with only minor abnormalities is born in Britain. Unlike most of the other Essex babies, her pigmentation and cranial development are normal She is about half the size of a normal baby (much smaller than usual for an Essex baby) and has much more hair than usual, but is happy and cheerful. Her parents go into hiding to protect her. Other Essex children around the world are developing well, although most tend to be very aggressive and territorial. Clinical trials begin for an experimental aggression control drug. Child development authorities express concern that Essex children may be at risk for being stereotyped as brutish bullies with attention-deficit disorder and call for schools to develop programs to accommodate their needs. Several state education boards cut funding to artistic and scholastic extracurricular activities to fund program development committees. Essex births are up to five per 10,000.
2004: Jesse Ventura is elected to the Presidency, handily defeating the heavily damaged Bush and the not-quite-credible Warren Beatty/Jerry Brown ticket. Reform candidates take almost 23% of all open Congressional seats.
After winning her legal battle for control of her late husband’s assets, Anna Nichole Smith successfully campaigns for the Senate, representing her hometown in Texas. She also endows a charity concerned with women’s and children’s issues. Freed from the worries of securing financing, the Moonlight Sanctuary begins setting up hostels in major American, Canadian, and Mexican cities. In Washington, she becomes a cocktail party joke and is disparaged for her “naive, idealistic, and vacuous” campaigns for human rights. This changes when she is invited to meet with Pope Matthew IX and spends several days discussing her areas of concern. Remarkably, he takes her seriously when she tells him and the world that she had an epiphany one night in 2002 when three winged unicorns appeared to her in the desert and charged her to make a difference in the world. The Pope’s only comment was, “God’s messengers are legion.”
Night vision equipment becomes an option on most luxury cars. Car computers can now interface with the driver’s desktop or PDA and give verbal reminders of appointments or errands. Traffic monitoring services keep the car appraised of jams and construction, enabling the car to suggest faster or less crowded routes. Car computers (occasionally referred to as ‘road Apples’) are available with a variety of voice, dialect, and gender options. The most popular personalities for the first model year are Sean Connery, Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, and Majel Roddenberry as the Enterprise computer. The HAL 9000 personality is initially popular, but is quietly withdrawn after consumer complaints of unexplained quirks and system failures.
Late July brings another unending heat wave to Los Angeles and the rest of southern California. Deaths in Los Angeles from heat, crime, and violence begin to climb dramatically. On Lammas, the 1st of August, a coalition of Native American religious leaders, Shintoists, Wiccans, Christians, and New Age believers gather in the Angeles forest to pray and work magic for rain and a lessening of the violence. Over the course of the next hour, the barometric pressure drops rapidly enough to trigger tornado warnings throughout the Southland. By the time the ceremony ends, rain is falling in the Valley and the temperature has dropped from 109º to 85º. The local Fox affiliate was the only news station to send a camera crew to cover the ceremony and their tape is the only footage recorded of the event. The reporter, Sylvia Guzman, used her cell phone to contact her producer, Daniel Noyama, and convince him to go live with her report. Noyama could barely hear her over howling static that sounded “like someone duct taped a bagpipe to a Harley exhaust pipe”, but he did understand that something significant was happening. He began preparations for a live broadcast, and then sent his manager an email about the incident. Five minutes later, the live uplink in place, he called Guzman’s cell phone and received a “not in service” message. The camera truck was also offline. He was in the middle of dialing the satellite phone in the camera truck when an intern ran up to him in tears. An F-117 on route to a live-fire exercise had begun experiencing electrical problems and been directed to attempt to land at LAX. The plane was unstable and the pilot had been forced to dump his ordinance to minimize the danger of civilian casualties. Although he had been aiming for an empty stretch of scrub, the plane’s instability and speed caused the two 500-lb bombs to impact between the prayer circle and the news crew. Only the A/V tech and four of the people in the prayer circle survived. The rain came, bringing green lawns and a balmy autumn. The Air Force quickly and quietly settled the survivor’s claims while promising a full review of their in-flight emergency protocols.
Controversy erupts when the IOC announces mandatory Essex screening for all male athletes attending the summer games in Athens. Despite a storm of protests, the IOC refuses to rescind the announcement on the basis that exposure to an Essex carrier might transmit the condition to a susceptible individual. Australia, Canada, and Japan boycott the games in protest.
2005: A group of hackers calling themselves ‘The Lone Gunman Memorial Cheesecake Baking Society’ hold a press conference to announce that they have proof that the Funt’s Revenge virus was created and distributed by the National Security Agency as a means of illegal information gathering. Several members of Congress call for an investigation and the White House agrees. The hackers present their findings during a nationally broadcast press conference at the White House. The evidence is clear and compelling, showing that the NSA had been invading the privacy of computer users for almost 15 years, and that FIDNet contained almost 300 terabytes of illegally obtained information. Congress and the courts indict NSA Director General Kimberly Winters on numerous civil liberties and abuse of power charges. When her Congressional trial begins, she presents a Carte Blanc signed by then-President George W. Bush Sr., stating that, “This person has done what they have done for the good of the country, and as such they are pardoned unconditionally, as are all those who have done their bidding in this matter”. She also produces a Supreme Court decision from 1995 that holds that this particular document is constitutional. The Court explores the ruling and upholds it without comment. General Winters is released.
A four-year study by the University of California Santa Barbara on the effect of prayer on health and surgical recovery concludes that the faith of others has no bearing on the healing process. This contradicts four earlier studies that showed that prayer (regardless of the faiths of the person praying or the recipient of the prayer) did have an impact. Irregularities are discovered in the study’s data, however, which indicate that the data had been tampered with. Once the irregularities are pointed out to the researchers they quickly begin looking over their original logbooks and discover that much of their data has been tampered with. A new study is proposed, but the Regents of UCSB deny it, and no other funding can be found. A fire at the cold storage facility where the study notes are kept completely destroys the original data, as well as the possessions of 38 other renters. The bodies of four homeless men are discovered in an empty unit, dead of fire or smoke inhalation. The investigation concludes that they started the fire for warmth and lost control of it.