Of course the world ends. It happens quickly, faster
than anyone could predict. The Red Plague hits
a world already on the brink of collapse. Extreme
climate change, global economic crisis, increasing
conflict between old and new superpowers. When
the pandemic comes, the last thin veneer of stability
crumbles.

One billion people die in the first year. Utter
panic reigns supreme, solidarity between nations
is non-existent. Wars break out over the last, dwindling
resources of the world. For the first time since
1945 nuclear weapons are used in armed conflict.
Mushroom clouds rise from east to west.

Everyone tries to save themselves. The rich and
powerful start monumental projects to escape the
surface of the dying Earth: going deep underground,
to the bottom of the oceans, into the cold darkness of
space. The seats in these final lifeboats for mankind
are desperately few. For most of the world’s inhabitants,
there is no way out.

Once it’s all over, Earth is still. Nature invades
ruined cities. Winds sweep through empty streets
turned into graveyards. Time gnaws the windows
off skyscrapers, panes falling to the ground in a slow
rain of glass.

Yet life remains. Slivers of humanity survive
the Apocalypse. In the Ark, a small settlement at
the edge of a dead city, the People live. You are the
spawn of humanity, but not quite human. You are
twisted funhouse images, mutated freaks. Your bodies
and minds have incredible powers, but you are
unstable. Fragile. None of the People are over 30
years old.

Except the Elder. Your leader, but not like you.
One of the Ancients. For decades he has warned
you: be on your guard, don’t leave the Ark. Stay here,
or the Rot will get you. Or something even worse.
So far, you have obeyed his commands. Lived off
rations from the Old Age. Chased off every stranger
who came close to the Ark. Few dared to go out into
the Zone. That is what the Elder calls the outside
world.

But the safe days are over. Food is running
scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent.
You starve. Factions are forming, bosses on top
and slaves at the bottom. In the middle, fixers who
try to turn a profit from anyone and everyone. And
the Elder can’t stand up on his own anymore. They
say he can’t even take a piss without help. You’re on
your own now.

It’s time to venture out. To explore the Zone, to
search for artifacts and knowledge. Build, grow the
land, seek out others, create a new civilization on the
ruins of the old one. Seek your origin. No children
are born to the People – if you do nothing, you will
perish. Maybe, one day, you will find the Eden of
legend, the Ancients’ haven from the encroaching
hellscape. That’s where salvation and truth await,
the stories say.

Maybe it’s all fairy tales. It doesn’t matter. You
have no choice. This is the beginning.

This is Year Zero.

For a Handful of Water

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