Smoke and Mirrors
The world didn't end in 1968, or 2012, or 2020. Or at any date when it was predicted to end. But always, doomsday seemed to be creeping ever-closer. First it was the threat of nuclear Armageddon, then the threat of bioweapons, and then and most damning, the threat of economic collapse and a depression to end all depressions. But humanity was strong, and has survived every one of these incidents despite the rot at its core, a rot that had been festering for thousands of years.
However, there are some threats that no-one knows about, and those are the most dangerous of all. There are those who seek to end the world, and those who seek to preserve it. This shadow war has been fought for uncountable millenia between groups that have stayed hidden in the shadows, and even as humanity approaches its darkest hour, they still fight, as there might still be something worth fighting for. Gangs of cultists duke it out with paramilitary commandoes in daylight. Creatures that were once human, enhanced by grafts from extradimensional beings, stalk the streets, fighting to preserve what they have willingly sacrificed, or fighting to destroy what they can no longer have.
In a war for the survival of humanity, what atrocities will be committed in the name of the greater good? How many must be sacrified to save billions? You are invisible warriors, fighting an invisible war against a foe which seeks nothing less than to resurrect a god. But with this comes the cold knowledge that you are holding the lives of billions in your hands, and every action you take may save or damn the human race.
BosWash Conurbation, currently owned by America, Incorporated-although the recent stock buyouts have made this statement seem more and more quaint at the moment. Made of towering skyscrapers and idyllic suburbs, it is sterile and perhaps the closest thing one can get to utopia in this world, but that merely lets the citizens inside ignore the horrible poverty of the outside. Outside the fences and automated guard turrets there are the slums, the secondary economy of criminals, prostitutes, and vagrants who came here to find riches and ended up becoming one of the dregs of society. Although life was never good, rumors of horrible things have been spreading recently, and slum-dwellers have been going missing, one by one. The police don't care, and if anything have gotten more hostile to the poor lately.
It all comes down to the Umbrella, a protective dome being grown over BosWash by experimental nanotech to protect from ultraviolet radiation. Designed to be selectively permeable to most types of radiation, it would mean that people could finally walk out in the open without requiring high-SPF sunscreen or getting horrible cancers and disfigurements. Of course, there is a cloud for every silver lining, and there are prophecies of an "Undying God" which will rise again once "the sun sets forever upon the dead heart of a nation's power". And what is BosWash but a new the capitol of the defunct United States? Vague as the prophecies are, preventing them from coming true is your job.
The Corporations run everything. There isn't much of a middle class, not compared to the halcyon years anyways. It's gotten a lot darker, and crime is on the rise unless you're lucky enough to live in one of the large-scale gated communities, where your life is protected by armed guards in body armor and everything is sterile. The rich and upper-class live the high life in their mansions and skyscrapers, while the poor survive, eking out an existence in the slums and whatever they can beg, barter, or steal. Being on the street at dark, outside of the sterile communities of the rich, is dangerous. Everyone goes armed, whether it's just with a zip-gun and a knife, or with high-grade concealed body armor. If you've got a car, it's probably either armored or you only dare to drive in daylight hours. The poor get cheap entertainment, housing, and food, though, so they aren't noticing the downwards spiral. Give bread and circuses to people and they never notice the empire crumbling around them.
Corporate competition has gotten rather violent. Mercenary work is one of the few ways someone in the slums can make enough money to immigrate into the gated communities, and many have resorted to becoming hired soldiers for the corporations to increase their standard of living. The police and most armed forces have been almost entirely privatized.
The largest companies in BosWash are America, Inc., the former United States government after the bankruptcy and corporate mergers of 2025, Schaft, an energy provider with rumors of bribery and criminal ties, Joint Special Operations Incorporated, formerly known as Joint Special Operations Command, bought out by the PMC Blacklake in 2028, which is partnered with America, Inc. in many ways, the premier banking firm, Rand-Friedman, Raytheon-Mitsubishi, builders of missiles, planes, and cars, and Bask Repair, a urban renewal and household appliances corporation.
Although life hasn't improved much by 2038, technology definitely has.
Vehicles today use fuel-cell technology, making environmental damage a thing of the past-although given how badly screwed up the ecosystem is already, that's not very reassuring. Personal transport is generally still affordable even in this age, but the poor often prefer the armor-plated buses that are slightly safer. Carjacking is a pretty common crime, however.
Computers are ubiquitous in life. Not having a PDA and wireless interface glasses marks you as either too poor to afford even those necessities, or rich enough that you have them woven into your clothing as well. Everything is computerized and many things are wireless-accessible, although critical systems like smart scopes, cybernetic implants, sensitive data, and the like are often stored on systems with no method of contacting the outside save by physical connections. It wouldn't do for a hacker to be able to shut down your weapons with a wave of a hand, right?
Weapons haven't changed all that much since the 20th and early 21st century. Most civilian firearms still use cased ammunition, although military firearms have solved the problems with caseless munitions and most modern military forces field them. Grenade launchers are generally all capable of airburst functionality, and gyrojets have come back into fashion to give those grenades an extra range and accuracy boost in some cases. There are a handful of man-portable rail- or coil-guns, but they are fairly rare and cumbersome, and rumors of man-portable energy weapons exist, but are normally denied by governments and corporations.
Body armor has gotten lighter, cheaper, more protective, and, most importantly, much more comfortable to wear for prolonged periods. Weapons have improved somewhat to compensate. Body armor is now a fashion statement, though, with every surviving high-class brand of fashion doing a thriving trade in ballistic resistant styles. Fashion, following pragmatism, has made a return to conservative outfits, maximizing the body area covered when someone decides to take a potshot at you.
Ever since ancient times, men and women have banded together to fight the unknown, the creatures that lurk in the darkness. Over time the knowledge has become codified, these groups have become more effective, and they have disappeared deeper into the shadows, as not to alarm the ones who are unwilling or unable to deal with the reality of the situation. And as this has gone on, they have become ever more like the foe they fight, skulking in the shadows, using unsavory tactics, hiding from a populace which would not be able to tell the difference between destroyer and savior. But protection requires sacrifice, and there are still those who are willing and able to make that sacrifice.