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【Setting】Gray Zone

22 August 2018
Acid Rain World News


Although I had yet to issue the final orders, the squads had already begun to gear up and prep their SAs. Having traveled this far away from home and being accompanied by the Revenant Laurel, everyone knew a tough battle must be up ahead. I sat atop a Stronghold and gazed upon the barren lands quietly, my thoughts and memories drifted in solitude. It wasn’t until Argus shoved a flask of whiskey in front of me that I was able to awake from my stupor. I took a big gulp. I turned my head wanting to thank him, but he had already disappeared. Argus normally wouldn’t show up so soon, but I guess he must have known…

I was born in these lands.

I was just a child when the catastrophic Gray Summer came. My family survived the chaos, but the nightmare had only just begun. The acid rains formed above our region, it rendered much of our lands infertile. Famine began to spread. We traveled away from the rains towards habitable regions, but the mass of refugees grew larger each day. Those who survived from starvation had to deal with the ensuing epidemics. We moved from one temporary refuge to another, but we were treated like scourge, none welcomed us. My parents succumbed to the plagues, and I was left alone to wander the wastelands.

A decade of war and the Gray Summer left many countries with insufficient manpower and resources to maintain their borders. Bit by bit they had to give up polluted territories plagued by the acid rains. Country borders further shrunk and disappear. Eventually, these swathes of abandoned lands came to be known as the anarchic “Gray Zones”.

Pockets of humanity still survive in the Gray Zones till this day, turning to various means of survival. Some became scavengers, treating abandoned lands and cities as treasure troves, risking their lives for loot and abandoned treasures in exchange for basic commodities; some became bandits, targeting vulnerable supply convoys and individuals who had to pass through their territory; some offer escort services, providing protection and safe passage through the area. Ironically, these passages became “bloodlines” that kept the countries and cities isolated by the Gray Zones alive. Many governments and organizations were willing to pay large sums to guarantee the safety of their goods and supplies. These “lucrative” businesses did not only offer salvation to those who live in the Gray Zone, it also attracted various opportunists, mercenaries, arms dealers, smugglers and other unscrupulous professions. As time went by, this “gray economy” spawned unique socioeconomic systems in the Gray Zones across the globe.

Some may refer to the anarchic Gray Zones as utopias or dystopias, but right now this land before me is neither. Evil and pestilence had ravaged this land for too long, humanity has taken a rotten turn for the worst. The scars here will never heal, and restoring hope may be nigh impossible, but still, everyone has his own mission.

I put my mask back on, my nose no longer felt itchy. The smog began to lighten, I held the flask in the air.

Mom, Dad. I am back.