Ascendancy: n. Superiority or decisive advantage; domination.
When the year 2006 dawned upon our world, nothing changed. The same nations dictated the course of history with their purses and their guns. The same politicians spouted their mind-twisting rhetoric. The same armies tore through the same desperate people, for the same tired reasons and worn-out excuses. People were, in a way, content with their existence regardless of their situation, secure in the knowledge of how the world worked, and how they figured into that scheme. Of course there were the debates - evolution, stem cell research, religion, science; those would never end, but there was at the very least a general agreement of what humanity was, and what humanity was not.
Zenica was a city like any other, boasting a modest population of some 150 000 individuals. The urban centre was known as an island of cultural tolerance adrift in the sea of Bosnia's tragic history of ethnic warfare, as well as a thriving hub of commerce and industry. People were born, went to school, had a career, married, and died in Zenica just as they do everywhere else, until one chilly mid-February morning - nothing since that day would ever be the same.
A group of strange men and women entered the town at approximately 8:00 AM and proceeded to lay waste to everything (and everyone) around them, using not guns and bombs, but strange rays of light and blasts of concussive force that seemed to originate from nowhere. The army responded swiftly to the threat, but its tanks and automatic rifles were no match for these supernatural beings; within minutes, Zenica was a sea of flames. There were no survivors, neither citizen, nor soldier, nor any of the strange attackers.
When the year 2006 dawned upon our world, everything changed.
The destruction of Zenica gained immediate global attention despite the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina's efforts to lock down the information until it could make better sense of the incident. Worldwide media organizations clamoured for truth, and the internet buzzed with talk of government coverups and conspiracy. Faced with a monumentous backlash from the world's public, the leaders of six nations ultimately pulled back the curtain on a disturbing reality: the existence of genetically-superior superhumans known otherwise as ascendants.
Amid the raucous clamour that ensued, the executive governments of Russia, France, Germany, the United States, and India were impeached (while China suffered a bloody military coup) and a massive shakedown of national defence agencies in all six countries were enacted in order to repair the damage. Criminal charges were laid against former leaders in a few, religious extremists angered by governments' sheltering of 'demons' meted out their own brand of justice in others, but what was done could not be undone. By 2012, new cases of ascendancy began to crop up around the world in seemingly random manifestations of supernatural power.
An explosion of ascendancy-related crime and violence ensued that the world's military and law enforcement authorities was neither trained nor equipped to deal with, and so a special multinational organisation - the United Nations International Scientific Collaboration Initiative (UNISCI) - was founded with a dual mandate to both research the phenomenon of ascendancy, and quash it wherever its misuse threatened global peace and stability. To this end, the world's first international ascendant rapid-response team was established: "01".
01 remained active in combating "rogue ascendants" and various criminal organisations that sponsored them for over 5 years, and during that time accumulated a great amount of fame and notoriety around the world in spite of every effort to keep the operation clandestine. The inexorable advance of time and the grueling volume of missions gradually amassed a terrible toll on the bodies and minds of the 01 members, however, and sometime around the year 2026 the ascendant combat team was disbanded without fuss or fanfare.
Other ascendant enforcement groups had come into being long before that time, so 01's departure did not leave the world without protection. However, it would be another decade before UNISCI undertook another major initiative on the same scale. Determined to finally unravel the mysteries of ascendant genetics, the organisation negotiated a contract with JW Industries, a multinational corporate empire based in Anglia, Massachusetts, to establish a centre for international ascendancy research. In July of 2036, the Skygate Institute formally began operation.
THE SKYGATE INSTITUTE
The Skygate Institute is a large compound located in the heart of Anglia, Massachusetts, conjoined to the sprawling campus of the University of Anglia. The mandate of the Institute is to study the properties of ascendant genetics, chart new developments in the evolution of ascendancy, and assist young ascendants in asserting themselves as harmonious, productive members of society. Subjects undergo rigorous - but fully compliant with the word and spirit of United Nations human rights conventions - testing and their ascendancy charted in meticulous detail; in return, they receive training, methods of suppressing or outright eliminating their talents should they prove too dangerous, and a sizable salary, in addition to numerous other benefits.
The Skygate Institute's private backing, as well as vigorous demand for statistical information on the growth of ascendancy in the world, has enabled it to support a financial scheme whereby subjects, typically aged eighteen to twenty-four, are provided room, board, and if eligible, a full-ride scholarship at the university, all at no cost to the subjects or their families. Where the tremendous resources necessary to support this fiscal model come from is a mystery to all but those who are privy to the facility's most private secrets, buried deep beneath the earth upon which it rests.
THE SKYGATE STRIKE TEAM
What the world sees of the Skygate Institute is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, in more ways than one. In reality, the Rienard Partnership is a front for a weapons development firm under dual contract by the American Department of Defense and UNISCI for the development of techniques and technologies for nations facing ascendancy-related problems that require military solutions. To this end, a second facility is housed in the earth beneath the Skygate Institute's medical branch where more promising subjects are trained in combat and arranged into rapid-response strike teams modeled after the defunct 01 command, to deal with sensitive incidents of ascendant crime around the world.
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