(OOC Note: This prologue takes place as if Newlight took place in 2087 – thus, within your own personal lore-sets, you may need to adjust dates back by 33 years.)

Lower Sendai hasn’t been the same since the start of Operation Bleeding Lotus. From Fukuoka to Sapporo, the bodies are piling up. For us, we saw tragedies unfold so quickly, the 24-hour news cycle could barely keep up. Every streamer, media, flocking towards the Western coast, to catch a glimpse of the bloodshed, but what everyone could see is that this… blotchy pallet of differing uniforms, hundreds of different CombatCorps, security companies, aeon-old private military firms, all recruiting, all looking to bolster their forces.

It became clear that the cutthroat corporate culture of rivalry between an enormous amount of different companies, each with their own procedure, limitations, equipment, and communications, were no match for one massive, often-times automated, cohesive Kuomintang force. KMT came down on the western coast of the mainland like a 50-ton bundle of steel, punching through entire towns, cities, culling even some of the biggest names in the solo game. People who’d spent decades upping themselves and getting chipped-out for combat, culled in an instant.

One thing we knew for sure, is that no amount of loss, no amount of death, no amount of asset destruction was going to change the minds of the people in the impossibly tall skyscrapers, there’d never be any sort of unity, any sort of cohesion between the massively privatized defense force that was allowed to operate in the mainland.

And for that, Japan began to pay the ultimate price.

But, it wasn’t just those on the coast, and adjacent to it, that saw a change in their daily lives. Every megacity, every level of each one, between the endless and boundless labyrinthine neon and concrete mazes, saw a daily change, a police state – and harder than it was before. At least before, the cities never slept, there was no curfew. In by 22, out by 06 – every single night. Treatment got rougher. Checkpoints, everywhere. Licenses, revoked.

Especially when it came to Lower Sendai. Aetherstone decided that “our” best, bet for a collective survival, was to crack down on damn near everything going down in Lower Sendai. Say goodbye to your modded weapons, your expensive, custom-built augmentations, your own livelihood. Your brand, and who you are – this is a complete, and utter lockdown. Pointless to go out without your life on paper on you. Can’t get out of your apartment block in the first place. It’s all so much. Crimes punished at double the brutality, sentencing doubled at minimum, and the nightlife is totally, and completely dead. It’s sad to see your favorite clubs and bars close.

Suppose that the worst part about it all, is that nobody can really tell if it’s that necessary – or maybe it is.

Nonetheless, there’s something better out there, for us. The system’s been a failure from the start, that much is obvious. A massive overhead array of leaky money-pipes that occasionally break and drip their wealth down onto the heads of the rest of us in Lower Sendai, scheming for the best way to patch the holes in the bucket and catch some of it. Maybe Aetherstone was waiting for this chance, all along. An impossibly massive, monolithic company? Not exactly out of the norm. It’s a little bit different when they’re faceless, and they try to talk to you like they’ve got one, though. At least The Triumvirate, over in Cascadia has enough self-control to be impossibly enormous, omnipotent, but largely keep itself out of the public eye.

Ukiyo City. Once upon a time, the lovely city of Hong Kong, Japan all happening, all at once, enormous megabuilding bloc-style apartments, and a hub of all things between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Now, a private-development project for those that fetishize Brutalist Architecture, and are wholly convinced that the only way forward is by giving Japan to The Triumvirate.

JTRI exists now. The finest minds of the Japanese Corpo-Gov put their lopsided skulls and craniums together, and realized that the best thing to do, would be to wipe their hands of the situation in Japan, much to the chagrin of every robe-wearing, lotus-flower sniffing prick that thinks that there’s even a modicum of “honor” left in the country. Ukiyo City is run by them, and it seems like they’re the best bet at knocking back Operation Bleeding Lotus, to the degree that the mainland can be saved.

One thing’s for sure though – if we don’t get the fuck out of dodge, we’re all gonna be dead before anything better can be done for these people. The combat-stim sucking corporate soldiers can have their war, if they wanna die like some red-suit marine in a nerdy tabletop game, they can. For the rest of us though? We’re heading to Ukiyo City.

There’s more Triumvirate “presence” in Ukiyo City than anywhere else in Japan. Even Tokyo, a city split by politicking and business ventures that think that nobody can see the fact that it’s all Yakuza bullshit. Fine place to live if you don’t mind a serious lack of “freedom of press.” But no. It seems that The Triumvirate, the same people that walled off Cascadia and made it “safe” to the world, but maybe not to itself, have taken it upon themselves to set that same thing up in Japanese Hong Kong. Ironic, given how close it is to mainland China – but nobody dare fuck with The Triumvirate, directly.

Subversion and covert operations, on the other hand – that’s a different story. Ukiyo City is walled off and locked down, built further and further up on top of pre-existing infrastructure, so much to the degree that the original city is almost utterly unrecognizable, this… strange mess of metal and concrete that continues and continues to pile up, a dirty “SprawlState,” or in simplistic terms, a city made for machines, before humans. A city that supports “SPRAWL,” a Triumvirate-created term that encompasses all infrastructure from virtual to the physical, “The Wired” except for everything, and much different from even the most technologically advanced cities out there.

Now, they’re the model for the next step of handling, governing, organizing society. It’s what we have to do, in the face of an insurmountable, unstoppable force. The story plays out the same, for the most part, here – you get by, doing what you must. On the upper end of it all, The Triumvirate directs Conglomerates, or large committees and boards of the impossibly wealthy, near-immortal. They represent their Corporations, and then the Corporations govern from the top-down, down to society as it exists, within Ukiyo City.

No real distinct difference between the government, and the entities that control and run everything, anyways. Maybe mask-off was the best way to go, all along. At least you aren’t staring down death at the hands of a gigantic, ass-backwards techno-barbaric force that wants nothing more than to kill you, take the land, keep it for themselves.

However, we have to get there, first.

And that’s where our daring escape is made. We’ve made contact with a few people who are already out there, in Ukiyo City. A place like this doesn’t exactly skimp on immigration control, that’s for sure. There aren’t many Triumvirate-run countries out there, Japan’s only the second, and it’s not even “finished” becoming a Triumvirate-run country, yet. It was only a month or so ago, that the existing state apparatus announced that they’d be working in full cooperation with The Triumvirate, in order to fix this… existential threat, that we currently face. But we need to go, and we need to go quickly.

People from all over the world leave their, now unsafe, and war-torn homes, to seek refuge in SprawlStates. Whether it’s the four zones in Cascadia, or Ukiyo City in Japanese Hong Kong – anything is better than this. But, they don’t make it easy to get in.

In short, we need to get out of Lower Sendai, out of the Japanese Mainland, to the outer-edge of Japanese Hong Kong, just outside of Ukiyo City, and then we’ll work our way in, from there.

Like I said, we’ve made contact with some people who are already living in Ukiyo City. They can get us into the city, but it might be a bit of a camping trip. I know that breaking immigration control laws and smuggling yourself through checkpoints might not exactly be your idea of an escape to safety, but I’m almost certain that this makes use of your skillsets, anyways. There’s no room for being a good corpo-cuck, here, and abiding by arbitrary laws – you’ll have plenty of chances to be a good little Employ, once you’re living behind the walls of Ukiyo City. Or don’t.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Here’s the plan, and I hope you like trains.

First, when we give the signal, and we contact all of you, we’re going to be breaking out of the Sendai limits by means of an unfinished underground addition to the rail transit system, which was abandoned for fear of security measures back when Bleeding Lotus kicked off – and for good reason, too. You can, probably, bypass most of Aetherstone’s forces through this. It’s a bit of a trek, so I hope you’ve doubled-up on stamina modifications to the legs, but hopefully this winds up being the only real part where you’re hoofing it. It’ll lead you BACK to Sendai Station.

When you get there, the primary goal is to get out of the restricted zone, without drawing any real attention to yourself. We’re already researching how the security works at Sendai Station, and if we can’t manage to get an in with whatever security firm runs teams down there.

Make sure that you’ve all got at least 12,000 Yen on you, because that’s how much a ticket on The Shinkansen’s going to cost, because from here, you get to relax. There’s already systems in place for those of you travelling with weapons, but I can’t recommend bringing anything that might be stolen, because they scan serials there. Might just have to forego it, or find some way to make it seem not-stolen, however you do that is up to you.

You get to the station, and you take the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen all the way down to Omiya Station, out in Saitama. It’s, I don’t know – hour and a half? Not long.

Once you’re at Omiya, you’re going to transfer onto the Saikyō Line, from there to Shinjuku Station. And that pretty much completes the train-riding leg of the journey. Given that you all make it there, and you’re functional adults so much that you can navigate a basic Japanese public transit system.

This is where shit starts to get dicey. You might not be aware of this, but Shinjuku and Shibuya, are all one city now, called Shinjuku-Shibuya. Yeah, I know – surprising. It’s run and governed (or, owned and operated, a better term) by “The Shinjuku-Shibuya Provisional Government.” If you’re thinking that there wasn’t much thought put into how they name these places, it’s because you’re right, and it’s probably because “Yakuza Government” sounds scary to the average person, but nonetheless, this is a little pocket-government that exists outside of the normal government, because of the sheer amount of business going down in Shinjuku-Shibuya, and thus, because of the thick concentration of Yakuza in and around the area, they seemed to have genuinely kept everything calm, while everyone else loses their shit (or their lives) elsewhere. In this city, excellence in journalism is awarded by a bat to the head, and damn near everything is comprised of the service industry now. Hope you like Host Clubs, there’s a shitton of them, down here. Main industry, actually.

But I digress – there’s some important for you to meet down here, and she’ll be waiting for you once you get off, at the station. She formally lives out here in Ukiyo City, and is largely a common face over here, but she travels to Shinjuku-Shibuya rather often. She’s doing us a favor, and I can only imagine she’s one of the more pleasant people involved in the whole… yakuza-corpo-government ordeal happening over there. She’s one of those Saiko-Komon types, financial administrators, of the core clan of people that are actually running the show out there, so, pretty deeply involved, but probably no politician. Nonetheless, you can’t miss her – she’s probably one of the few people on earth that wears combat boots with a suit, she’s covered in stick-and-poke tattoos, and her eyes glow light blue, and she sucks at speaking English. Black hair with a pink and blue streak like they dragged her out of an old-school Cybergoth rave in an abandoned factory. Here’s a photo.

So, just follow her lead. She wants to get out of Japan proper and back to Ukiyo City just as much as you do, but she’ll be taking you through the streets, over to Chuobohatei. Once you’re there, it seems that she’s managed to source a boat normally used for the business end of Shinjuku Conglomerate’s shipping needs, which is moored out there. It’ll bring you from Japan, out of Tokyo Bay, across the Philippine Sea, steering way far away from the East China Sea, around the southern edge of Taiwan, and then towards Japanese Hong Kong.

It’ll dock in a place called “Junk Bay.” Once you’re there, hop off. It shouldn’t be too much longer before you’re within city limits, but first, you’re going to have to spend some time on the outer reaches of Ukiyo. We’ll have to work out how you’re getting in, but it should be fine. Just, for the time being, you might have to do a brief stint in the wilderness just outside of Ukiyo City. Won’t be too hard getting into the Ukiyo Outskirts.

We’ll get you your credentials while you’re out there, you just might have to set up a base camp or something for a little while, talk to the locals, before we can get you in, properly, through the checkpoints. Either by legitimate means, or illegitimate means, whatever it takes to not get you swept up by security forces, out here.

They’re not as bad as Aetherstone’s been, recently, but they’re definitely not the kind of people that fuck around, either. You know how it goes.

That’s all that I’ve got for you, now. Get rid of this message or something, once you’ve read it. We’ll all be seeing you soon enough – there’s much to be done, once you get here, don’t you worry about that.

It’d be a shame to let such talents go to waste out there in the quickly-decaying mainland.