2060: In a climate of growing international tension, construction of one of the last underground cities begins in Salem, Massachusetts. The project is funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, local billionaires, and a scientific community of renowned biologists, surgeons, and neurologists. The site is located underneath the city’s largest cemetery.In 2065, Salem Underground, as the local media call it, is not completely operational by the time A-Day comes around. It is habitable but lacks numerous facilities. It is therefore only able to accommodate 3000 inhabitants. Salem Underground’s Survivor List includes its numerous financial contributors, local VIPs, as well as the entire scientific community involved in the project. About 200 people are offered free placement on the list in exchange for key skills and core competencies in the fields of cybernetics, chemistry, psychology and other scientific fields essential for long-term survival.
Five people on the list are secret collaborating practitioners of the occult sciences, a fact they have kept hidden from other city organizers and members. Salem’s mayor, Jason F. Kendall, is one of those five people. He selected the site under the cemetery for its occult significance and recommended that the city of Salem donate the land to the project.
On April 20, 2065 p.a., all 3000 selected survivors are present at the site. Given the rising tensions around the globe, they decide to lock themselves up in the city and finish work on the missing infrastructure. They never get the chance to come out again as the holocaust strikes only 11 days later.
The mayor of Salem assumes leadership of Salem Underground. He nominates four ministers to his cabinet. The nominated individuals are immediately confirmed by popular vote. If the mayor dies, it is planned that one of his cabinet members will be elected by popular vote to replace him. The Salem Underground is a peaceful, collaborative community, undamaged by conflict or animosity. But, unbeknownst to the community, all of Kendall’s cabinet members are “occult” collaborators.
The first ten years after “A-Day” are spent finishing construction of the city, which is still missing 20% of its facilities. Kendall inspires the population to work towards a future for their children and to have pride in their ability to sustain a community of 3000 survivors. The community is functioning well, finding clever and original ways to complete construction even when stocks of raw materials become critically low.
Meanwhile, the Occult Circle of Five develops a secret following. Kendall and his associates recruit geneticists, architects, biologists, and chemists, by offering them attractive high-level positions and opportunities for vital research. They are given the all-important charter of fostering community well-being and planning for future generations. The more reluctant recruits, who question whether the occult is compatible with science, are persuaded by additional benefits and privileges, which are provided by the supporting billionaires who brought much of their luxurious lifestyles with them. Eventually, almost all of the city’s scientists are members of the secret society.
By the end of the first decade, the scientific community is entirely devoted to Kendall and his administration. Nobody else is aware of the existence of the “Circle of Five.”
In year 5, a mysterious, violent illness appears. The cause seems to be viral. The survival rate is less than 10%. The medical doctors are helpless against the disease. Some blame the unfinished state of the city and suspect a possible biological contamination from the surface due to a weakness in the contamination shield. But then, why is it that the entire population is not contaminated?
In an attempt to contain and study the disease, doctors order regular examinations of all citizens every two months. The Crematorium is forced into overtime. By the end of the decade, 230 people perish from the disease, causing growing panic.
During the construction, certain areas of the city are secretly built by recruited scientists and engineers close to Kendall, and are kept away from the public’s eye. These areas are located on the other side of the Crematorium, a place which, for most people, marks the end of the city. They are told that there is one more room beyond the Crematorium that serves as the resting place for the ashes of deceased loved ones. But in fact, it serves as the sole access to the secret areas.
In a display of anger at the failure of medicine to find a cure for the virus, Kendall pushes to turn to the occult sciences for possible solutions, and asks the scientific community to find “creative” solutions to ensure the community’s survival.
Three hundred people now work secretly for Kendall’s administration, many of them in the secret areas, which they have dubbed Labtown. There, scientists build an unusual and advanced laboratory from the ground up. Questionable scientific experiments are attempted on sick test subjects to increase their survival rate. They combine the fields of chemistry, biology, genetics, cybernetics, and in desperation, a dose of the occult. They fail miserably. However, on one memorable day, a post-mortem test subject on its way to the Crematorium miraculously exhibits signs of electrical activity in the upper limb muscles, resulting in an involuntary and sudden jerking of the arms that causes quite a fright to the lab technician.
After examination, there is reason for cautious, although twisted, optimism. Even though the virus remains unstoppable, the scientists conclude that, with further research, it may be possible to revive dead people. Not the solution they were hoping for to maintain population levels, but a form of survival nonetheless.
By the end of year 20, Labtown employs 450 scientists, all members of the secret society. They take shifts in their work schedule so as not to draw attention from the rest of the population. Kendall orders tunnels to be dug to recover cadavers and skeletons from the Salem cemetery over their heads, providing an endless supply of remains on which to experiment. He is also able to access crypts known to be strong centers of occult energy.
Experiments continue, combining sciences, medicine, and the occult, but deliver no significant progress.
Kendall comes to believe that the cause of the failed experiments is the age of the cadavers and skeletons recovered, the spark of life having left them too long ago to create a successful experiment. Fresher bodies are needed. Some scientists balk at the suggestion, but others side with Kendall, hypothesizing that the presence of the virus might be a contributing factor. Kendall eventually convinces everyone.
On October 15 of year 21, the Secret Scientific Community (SSC) votes to start experimenting on Salem Underground’s dead. A process is put in place whereby bodies sent to the Crematorium for incineration are instead frozen and rerouted to Labtown, and fake ashes are returned in exchange for the families to see. The Crematorium thus provides a perfect cover for the SSC’s operation.
Experiments on the dead multiply. New techniques develop combining the sciences and the occult.
In 29 p.a., the SSC manages to reanimate Franck Einz, a mechanic of impressive stature who died just two hours prior. Before a panel of awed scientists, his body folds over, then sits up on the operating table, tilts to the side, and collapses on the floor. The entire event lasts only four seconds but gives immense hope to Kendall and his team.
The Omega Virus, as it is now called, remains unstoppable: 300 people die of the disease in this decade. But, at least, the bodies can be used for research.
By year 30, Salem Underground is reduced to 2200 inhabitants.
Kendall dies of old age in year 35. The community is deeply affected by the loss.
In 37 p.a., Erwin McGregus, a former journalist, uncovers the existence of Labtown and exposes the Crematorium subterfuge. The SSC acknowledges the facts but insists it is motivated only by the quest to find a cure for the virus. Angry, the general population demands a justification for the secrecy.
In the next three years, a growing climate of distrust envelops the city. The Omega Virus claims an ever-growing number of victims: 200 people die of the virus between years 30 and 37; 200 more between years 38 and 40 alone. Erwin McGregus numbers among those in year 38.
Salem Underground’s population now numbers only 1790 inhabitants. At this rate, the city will be a ghost town in less than two generations. Public opinion becomes divided. Those who now believe that scientific and occult experimentation on the victims of the Omega Virus is justified are called the “Occults” by their detractors; and those who oppose the experiments on an ethical basis are the “Rebels.”
In the year 42, civil war erupts between the two camps, lasting only three days. 390 Rebels and 190 Occults lose their lives in the fight. The Rebels are defeated, captured, and regrouped in a separate section of the city where they are kept under close guard. They are now called the “Banished.” Victims of the civil war are frozen and stored for future experiments.
Between years 42 and 45, progress in reanimation technology allows people who die less than 48 hours prior to be reanimated for periods of up to 15 minutes before collapsing again.June 15, year 46: An SSC scientist uncovers evidence of virus stockpiling by some of the leaders of the Occult movement. The evidence also includes a report entitled “The Coming of the Age of the Occult: Immortal Souls, Immortal Bodies.” Computer files catalog every victim of the virus since year 0, along with the following mention next to each victim’s name: “virus injected on...,” followed by a date. Another document reads “Virus Research: A Necessary Evil on the Path to Salvation.” Most members of the SSC were unaware of this information, which only extremist Occult members knew about. The community at large is in an uproar.
Public opinion is again divided in two opposing camps: those who are appalled by the sheer perversion of human values, and the Occult extremists who have become so fanatical in their occult practices that they believe this is the best path for humanity.
A new civil war erupts less than four years after the first one. Mysteriously, the Occult extremists seem to have been ready for the confrontation, having taken possession of the city’s entire weapons arsenal. Some suspect that they actually instigated the evidence “leak” to clearly identify their allies and enemies.
This second civil war lasts only a day, resulting in a tripling of the Banished population, now renamed Test Subjects, or Subjects for short. They are inventoried as part of the Experimental Supply bank.
In year 49, Salem Underground’s population numbers 970 inhabitants, including 450 Subjects and 520 Occults. Labtown’s cryogenic archives are 870-cadaver rich and are ready to be used in many kinds of experiments. Franck Einz, the first truly successful test subject, is stored in these archives.
Experiments continue at an unrelenting pace. Cadavers are exploited multiple times. Live Test Subjects are sometimes employed for comparative analysis.
The Omega Virus is no longer injected into people. Coincidentally, no new cases of the virus are reported...
With the diminishing supply of fresh dead bodies, experimentation on live Test Subjects becomes increasingly tolerated, encouraged even. The Subjects are subdued, enslaved, tortured, and are without hope.
In 60 p.a., scientists manage to keep a body reanimated for 11 hours and 25 minutes, thanks to a new serum administered within two hours after death.
The years and the generations go by, but no significant progress is reported on increasing the length of reanimation. However, scientists are able to reanimate the same body more than once with additional serum injections. They conclude that, to stay reanimated, bodies need a constant supply of the serum, pejoratively dubbed “Zombie Serum” by the Subjects. Rather than trying to perfect the serum, scientists work with engineers to develop a self-sufficient, automated serum delivery system.In 247 p.a.,Franck Einz becomes the first reanimated subject to be equipped with a life-support pack featuring the serum delivery system. He stays ‘alive’ for two years, resupplying his equipment as necessary. In that time, Franck exhibits only slight levels of intelligence. He is then returned to the cryogenic archives.
For the next fifty years, scientists address the “intelligence issue” with promising developments in artificial intelligence technology combining cybernetics, electronics, and neurology.
By 262 p.a., most of the Subjects are used up. Only 850 inhabitants remain in Salem Underground, the large majority of them are Occults. The cryogenic archives are filled with cadavers in various stages of experimentation.
In the early 300s, reanimated bodies are equipped with life-support packs and the first neuronic helmets, allowing them to reach the IQ of a one-year-old child.
In the following decades, research continues in cybernetics and artificial limb systems, as well as in the rising field of post-mortem surgery, making it possible to construct an enhanced being from parts of various cadavers for optimum performance.
In 345 p.a., neuronic helmets give reanimated bodies the IQ of a four-year-old child.
Franck Einz undergoes a complete transformation. He has become the SSC’s favorite Test Subject, having been genetically-modified and cybernetically-enhanced, taken apart and put together again from many different parts. He is not only more powerful, but also more intelligent, than all the other Subjects. He is equipped with a life-support pack containing a one-week supply of serum, a state-of-the-art neuronic helmet, and a cybernetic arm giving him supernatural strength. His IQ is that of a nine-year-old child.
For the next five years, the SSC focuses on enhancing the AI programming built into the neuronic processors with the objective of sending Franck on a solo reconnaissance mission to the planet’s surface.
Einz is now as intelligent as an average adult. On August 1st, 351 p.a., he is sent to the surface for a 24-hour reconnaissance mission. Upon his return, he is decontaminated, studied, and analyzed to assess the risks of surface exploration. He also brings back chilling videos of the devastation on the surface.
By the end of the century, Franck’s IQ exceeds that of most of the city’s inhabitants, thanks to significant AI developments. The SSC renames him Franck Einstein. He is regularly sent out to the surface for further exploration and to collect raw materials and artifacts.
Franck Einstein is unbeatable at chess.
On a contamination analysis mission, Franck reports that, for the first time, surface living conditions are acceptable for humans in the Salem area.
The first human expedition goes out to the surface, comprised of four volunteers. In the following weeks, each of the 570 Occult survivors of Salem Underground gets a chance to explore the ravaged land that once was the proud Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The population progressively migrates west from Salem, building dwellings and fortified centers in the surrounding areas. Salem Underground is not abandoned; it remains the population’s capital city and research base.
In 500 p.a., the population grows back to 1530 people, including 630 humans including only a handful of Subjects. The other 900 are reanimated beings used for defense and heavy, undesirable tasks. Later on, the NORAD faction will come to refer to them pejoratively as the “Zombies,” while they will call the Massachusetts survivors the “Salemites.”
In their 477 years spent underground, the Salemite faction has developed the following competencies: occult sciences, chemistry, biology, surgery, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, torture, necromancy. Their computer science and technology level is above par.
A Salemite commando squad crosses paths for the first time with a man and woman from the NORAD faction. Franck Einstein is a member of that squad. He is intrigued.
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