The Inevitable TriumphIn 1868, revolution came to Japan. The shogunate of old was cast aside as practical imperial rule was restored to the Land of the Rising Sun, and what followed was a rapid modernization and Westernization program the likes of which the world had never seen. The Empire of Japan exploded onto the global stage, winning high-stakes conflicts with China, Russia, and Korea on their march to imperial excellency. When the First World War came in 1914, the island nation was honor-bound by their alliance with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to enter the fray against the Central Powers, and it was here that they won the Pacifici colonies of the German Empire.
"With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God."
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Japan calls itself the 'Land of the Rising Sun.' Well, the Sun has Risen, and the Pacific is bathed in its light. The only question remaining is, how long will it be before it Sets?"
- Quebec Premier Pierre Trudeau
Tasting these fruits of expansionism, the appetite of Japan soon became insatiable.
The 1920s was marked by the transition of power in Tokyo from the oligarchic genrō to the democratic parties of the Imperial Diet. Prime Minister Katō Takaaki worked to overhaul the government for a new era, awarding universal male suffrage to the people and working to strike down the proposed Public Security Preservation Law of 1925, which would have marked a significant step back in the field of democracy had it passed. In the four years before the Great Depression, the Diet took great steps to reign in the increasingly wily and uncontrollable Imperial Japanese Navy and to make their reforms stick. To a degree, they were successful, but the military still demanded Japan expand its colonial sphere, and the new Emperor Hirohito, though his status as a demigod was coming under fire by the educated, sided with them. Incursions into the rotting corpse of the Republic of China became the norm, as Japanese influence was projected into Manchuria via their loyal subject, Korea. This string of conflicts with the Middle Kingdom took the nation's mind off of the economic downturn of the Depression, even as debate raged over policy in Tokyo between the progressives and conservatives and demonstrations by socialists and fascists alike filled the streets.
Japan had gained for itself something of a negative reputation over its taking advantage of China, and they sought redemption. The old Anglo-Japanese alliance, defunct since 1923, was revived in 1937, as the United Kingdom fretted over the safety of Hong Kong and Singapore. Enraged, the Kuomintang, the leading power in warlord China, signed on to the Tripartite Pact of 1939 with the new totalitarian powers of Hitler's Third Reich and Mussolini's Neo-Roman Empire. When Germany invaded Poland at the end of that year, Japan, through a winding path of interconnected alliances, was pulled into the fray. Finally, their conquest of China would be internationally sanctioned--even if they were forced to tone down the brutality of it after the British nearly had to intervene to stop the Breaking of Nanking.
In 1941, two sleeping bears were rudely awoken by the Axis. The Soviet Union, which had been toeing the line between Berlin and London since Hitler's rise, was finally forced to the side of the Allies when Operation Barbarossa commenced that spring. The United States of America, on the other hand, was finally prompted to action when the delusional and totalitarian Salvador Abascal, President of Mexico, ordered a surprise attack on the port city of San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally got the war he so craved, and rallied the country to arms. The US Navy was soon deployed in the Pacific, side-by-side with the IJN, patrolling the seas and bombarding the coasts of China, and the army was thrust into the Sonoran Desert on the long march to Mexico City. It was during the Second World War that the Empire of Japan gradually drifted away from its European allies, soon forging a shared brotherhood with the United States of America that would last for decades.
The war ended on February 2, 1945, when Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin and most of the Nazi high command, the Führer
included, committed suicide. The Eastern Front in China had come to a close months before, on September 13, 1944, when the Kuomintang leadership was rounded up in Yongzhou. What remained of the Axis leaders were shipped off to be tried at the German city of Nuremburg, and those that didn't succumb to death under suspicious circumstances were executed. After this, the world was free to be reorganized as the Allied Powers saw fit. The United Nations, the legacy of the late FDR, was established and Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain, with capitalist, democratic nations to the west, and communist states under Moscow's guidance to the east. So began the Cold War, which, though its intensity has ebbed and flowed with the decades, has defined the course of history for one-hundred-and-forty years.
By 2085, the undisputed world leader, even amongst its hyperpower contemporaries, is the Empire of Japan. Its economy has reigned among the most steady and powerful in the world since the close of the Second World War, and it finally surpassed the United States during the Second American Civil War of the 2040s. The nation is entering a new golden age, something far greater than its brief days in the sun during the 2020s, the 1980s, and the 1920s. This is in large part due to one of the most pressing issues facing the Land of the Rising Sun: overpopulation. Japan's population dwindled in the twilight of the twentieth century, and by the dawn of the twenty-first, as the country was faced with an aging population and a declining birth rate, the nation's top scientists were put to the task of developing a gene to dramatically increase the fertility rates of the next generation of Japanese, hopefully bringing the country back from the brink of collapse by the 2050s. Unfortunately, things worked out a little too
well; the population in 2010 was over 128 million, and by 2050, it was 512 million, four times that amount. And the numbers kept on climbing, shattering a billion in 2070 and showing no signs of slowing down.
Japan's borders had been static since its annexation of Hong Kong, Macao, the Malay States, and much of the Dutch East Indies during the Fall of Britannia in the 1990s and the rise of syncretism in the European Union, but they needed space. So, Japan bucked up, amassed the largest standing army in history, and set off on a mission of conquest and survival. The Philippines, Burma, and southern Vietnam, which had been so overwhelmed by waves of Japanese immigration that their native populations were no longer a majority, were absorbed easily, while the neutral Polynesian Confederation and the southern tip of Dravidia came kicking and screaming. Tokyo massively incentivized migration from the cramped Home Islands out to these new frontiers, as well as their Chinese and Southeast Asian puppets and beyond. Though one of the leaders of the Pacific Rim Accords (PRA), Japan also consolidated most of its protectorates and playthings into the Pacific International Cooperation Organization (PICO) for greater control. Still, this has not solved all of the empire's problems. As scientists and researchers search for a way to undo their genetic tampering, families are paid large sums by the government for keeping their child count at two or less, and advancements in robotics have produced extremely lifelike androids built to satiate the primal desires of Japan's of-age population. These great technological leaps forward are commonplace in the Land of the Rising Sun, which is widely considered to be the most advanced place in the solar system. Though the Americans still lead the world in space exploration, Japan has held a steel grip on the worlds of computing, engineering, automation and virtual immersion since the 1980s, boasting the highest standard of living globally as a result.
The United States of America is a shell of its former self, though that may not hold true much longer. Once the leader of the Free World in every aspect and seen as the avenging angel holding off the scourge of communism by many of its allies, the Euro-American Split of the 1990s soured relations between former friends in the Western Bloc and forced the untimely demise of old agreements that had been hashed out when the guns were yet to stop firing in Berlin. The United States stuck with its close ally, Japan, going forward, and signed on with them as mutual leaders of the Pacific Rim Accords in 2000. All was well for the next forty years, until the political climate of the 2040s proved too severe to be handled diplomatically--liberals and conservatives alike were cheating the system on a regular basis to silence their opposition--and thirteen conservative states (South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota) seceded when a radically progressive president was elected by a slim margin. The Second American Civil War was just as brutal as the first had been, taking the lives of almost six million people from 2041 to 2046. When the dust settled, the Union remained, having fully transitioned into a pseudo-socialist democratic government with a penchant for war. The states that had seceded were put under a military occupation and reeducation program to last at least thirty years, as America looked to its neighbors to absorb next. Canada and the West Indies Federation fell in 2058, with just Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador left to their own devices, and in 2076 Washington declared a Second Mexican War was to begin.
The United States, despite its recent expansionism and prominence as a leader in one of the most important military pacts on the planet, is far cry from the heights it fell from. Its economy, though on the road to recovery, still lags behind the EU and Japan. Interventionism outside of manifesting more destiny is deeply unpopular as the nation slides into its third bout of isolationism. Outside of elitist hotspots like New York and Los Angeles, most of the country's gigantic megacities are dirty, unkempt, and riddled with crime. American cultural influence is on the rebound worldwide, but it still duels with Japanese and European pop culture. Modern America's most redeeming quality is its affinity for space travel, something it has been obsessed with since President John F. Kennedy challenged the US to reach the Moon by the end of the Sixties. With three space stations, four lunar bases, and footprints on Mars, Phobos, Titan, Europa, and countless asteroids, the Union is still reaching for the stars.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is the undisputed leader of the Last International, a restructured and reformed iteration of the Comintern. After the Second World War, the USSR set about consolidating the lands it had been given watch over by the Western Allies, forming the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe. In the late 1950s, tensions in the Cold War flared to the highest possible height it could reach without all-out war being declared between the two sides when disagreements over Japanese settlement in and around Vladivostok ended in shots fired. The Soviets geared up for World War III, but they had barely begun moving troops east when Japan dropped the first and only atomic bomb used the history of warfare on the city of Khabarovsk. The United States had developed nuclear weapons in 1948, but had kept it secret to all but their allies, while the Soviets continued to consider it pseudoscience. Hopelessly outmatched and lacking information on how many more nukes the West might have, the USSR was forced to cede huge swathes of its sparsely populated eastern holdings, simply to ensure Moscow wouldn't be vaporized. In need of somewhere to channel their anger, the Soviets stepped into the mess that was the Iranian Civil War on their southern border and, collaborating with local communist supporters, swallowed most of the country whole. General Secretary Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko, an avid Trotskyist who had evaded the Great Purges of the 1930s by fleeing to Latvia, succeeded Joseph Stalin to the Soviet throne in 1956 and wiped away any semblance of the Man of Steel's ideas of "socialism in one country." Believing in the continuous revolution, Antonov-Ovseyenko supported and funded countless communist movements around the globe, taking a major role in the establishment of leftist governments in Turkey, Yemen, East Africa, the Andes nations, and northern India. The USSR entered the Space Race with the United States after America launched the first satellite, Voyager I
, in 1957, succeeding in putting the first man in space in 1959 but losing to the Union on most other accounts, including the Moon landing (the Americans touched down in 1968) and setting foot on Mars (the Americans arrived in 1986).
Following the Euro-American Split, the USSR found itself lacking a defined foe and found it reasonable to let its guard down for a time. This spurred the Thaw of the 1990s-2000s, where, under President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union liberalized significantly, letting democracy seep into its systems and diluting the totalitarian nature of communism in the country. The USSR, by the present day, is only a few notches to the left of the United States on the political spectrum, though the same cannot be said for all members of the Last International, especially the hardcore Stalinist East Germany and Delhi Collective. Still, much of the nation lives in squalor outside of city centers, and, somewhat ironically, labor conditions in the country are abhorrent.
The European Union is the product of Old World resistance to New World thinking. Europe emerged from the Second World War as nothing but rubble and ash, and had to be rebuilt from nothing. This, alongside an extensive denazification of West Germany, birthed a sense of camaraderie that spread like wildfire across Europe west of the Iron Curtain. The European Economic Community (EEC) was formed in 1958, and as the decades went by unified the continent fiscally and politically. By the end of the 1980s, the United States felt threatened by the growing backlash against its decisions by the EEC in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and in 1991 decided to withdraw the atomic weapons it had gifted the Europeans to dissuade Soviet invasion. The Europeans refused, and for a moment it appeared war might break out between allies, but instead the two parties simply disbanded NATO and the Western world was divided between the US and the new entity of the European Union (EU), a full-on, no-holds-barred liberal democracy spanning from the Atlantic to the Iron Curtain. Lacking clear guidance, the EU and its allies slowly drifted politically right, causing Scandinavia to exit the federation in 2023 and instigating the rebellion of Catalonia in 2029. As society degraded, the Europeans began to throw up paper-thin camoflauge, gentrifying their cities and hiding their dark underworlds under a layer of shiny, silver-and-gold paint and new technology. Despite boasting the third-best economy in the world and a robust culture, European public services, such as healthcare, are next to non-existent. Old money has ensured that the elites are firmly established as the leaders of the federation. What was once European democracy has become an oligarchic dragon with no knight to slay it.
The United Arab Republics was once the gem of Africa. Following decolonization, the peoples of North Africa and the Fertile Crescent were drawn together by pan-Arabism, and the UAR was founded in 1958 with the union of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq under wildly popular war hero Gamal Abdel Nasser. It grew quickly, with the initial three countries soon being joined by Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, and, only after being conquered, Kuwait. Relatively stable in comparison to the geopolitical mess that was sub-Saharan Africa, the UAR became rich off of oil money in the 1960s and saw an economic boom that persuaded both West and East to try and lure the federation to their side. NATO and Japan ultimately won out, and for the next thirty years the United Arab Republics was an ally of the West. After the Euro-American Split, the UAR sided with the European Union, bringing with it its longtime--but tentative--allies, the civil war-ridden Free Republic of the Congo and the apartheid-dominated Union of South Africa. The federation had never been truly
democratic, but it was after the split that the UAR gave up on all semblance of the notion and followed the EU into semi-authoritarianism. The situation only worsened when PRA and the Soviet Union sanctioned the country in 2064, causing a huge market for Arabian oil to dry up overnight. In 2068, a new president entered office in Cairo, and bungled the situation spectacularly. By the summer of the next year, the United Arab Republics had descended into chaos. Local leaders took power, splitting into numerous factions that siezed power across the union. The UAR has been dethroned. Today, the East African Union and the Mali Federation stand tall as the beacon of what a successful nation on the Dark Contient can do, as warlords and regional dictators squabble over sand.
Lastly, there is the curious outlier that is the Britannic Union. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland exited the Second World War as a victor, but what should have been a glorious return to form soon warped into a fall from grace. Slowly but surely, the glue that held the empire together dissolved, first as the White Dominions declared independence and renounced the Royal Family, then as European syncretism ate away at the British identity and threatened to cleave Scotland from its southron neighbors. When the Euro-American Split of 1991 came, the UK was hesitant to go along with the new European Union, having already been wary of the EEC in the first place. That hesitance was not something the EU could afford, and so they ejected Britain, as well as Ireland, on the grounds of their being "Japanese-American pawns." This proved disastrous for the UK, which was barely holding on to the remains of their once-grand empire. The Fall of Britannia began in 1995, as the Dominion of Rhodesia declared independence from London. Then the Japanese swept up their Asian holdings, annexing the islands of the Indian Ocean, Malay States and the prosperous city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore. The loss of the empire over the 1990s was tragic for the British, and it resulted in a wave of radicalism that brought democracy on Great Britain to an end. An angry mob marched on London on New Year's Day 2000 right into the Halls of Parliament, hauled out the Prime Minister, and beheaded her in the middle of Trafalgar Square to a worldwide audience of millions. In her place was the new Lord Protector of the Britannic Union, a dictator who embarked on a quest to "Make Britannia Magnificent Again." Future generations were taught that anyone not a Briton was an enemy of the state, and that the British Empire was not only still around, but that it still reigned supreme on the global stage. Dissidents were sent off to "join the Royal Navy," a shallow euphemism for being tortured and most likely killed masquerading in the costume of romance and adventure abroad. Almost every citizen of Britannia is serving or has served in the armed forces, eagerly awaiting the day that they can call upon the vast resources of the empire to conquer the world--a day that will never come.
The Inevitable Triumph
is a take on a cyberpunk-inspired new world order. Cities are massive, overpopulated, cesspools of drugs, sex, and violence but also massive cultural melting pots. Technology is far more advanced than anything we see today, from fully-immersive virtual reality to the growing prominence of transhumanism to out-of-this-world vehicles and instruments for diving into the unknown depths of outer space. And, somewhere in a garage in southern California, the first true A.I. has been downloaded into a cheap Japanese pleasurebot, the product of hundreds of hours of hard work and ingenuity. In some sense of the word, humanity has created life
. The world is changing. It will never be the same again.