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The world of CHC in 2045 has been changed dramatically in 50 years. In most respects, it is dramatically better.
There are fewer wars. There is less oppression. It would be inaccurate to say that poverty has been completely eliminated, but the brutal, crushing Third World poverty that left millions starving, plague-ridden, and homeless is a thing of the past. With new hope, and more importantly, adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care for the world's population, there has been less to incite warfare and terrorism.
Pollution has been dramatically reduced. Initially, Paladin solved some of the world's worst pollution problems by carrying megatons of toxic and radioactive waste into space and flinging it into the sun. Then came metahumans able to absorb radiation and disintegrate or transmute large quantities of matter. Today, the world is powered mostly by hydrogen fuel cells, fusion, or beamed power. Oil, coal, and natural gas have gone the way of waterwheels and windmills.
The environment has not been completely restored, because humans still occupy so much of it. But the Amazon and the Congo have been saved, as have habitats around the world. The ozone layer has mostly recovered, and fish stocks in the ocean are in the process of recovering. Endangered species are endangered no longer, because genetic engineering has become advanced enough that geneticists can produce more Siberian Tigers or Spotted Owls as needed.
Major organized crime syndicates were crippled and mostly wiped out by determined metahumans. The Mafia lives only the memories of a few geriatric ex-Wiseguys. The Yakuza were reduced to a purely ceremonial organization by a Japanese government that had become completely intolerant of even the slightest misbehavior. Gangs are too easily broken up by any metahuman who notices them. All the other crime syndicates suffered the same fate, crippled or destroyed by law enforcement aided by telepaths, pyschics, superhuman senses, and bulletproof, superfast agents. The drug cartels of South America and Asia were nearly put out of business by metahumans who alternatively torched their fields and raised the peasant farmers' standards of living so they no longer needed to grow coca or marijuana. There is still an illegal drug market, but most drugs are synthetic today, and those who manufacture and distribute them are small, local operators.
So what's wrong with this world?
The majority of scientific breakthroughs in the last five decades were produced by metahuman supergeniuses. Pollution was eliminated by metahumans. Wars are shortened or prevented by metahuman action. Organized crime cannot regain a foothold because of vigilant metas. Space travel and colonization leapt forward centuries thanks to metahumans who could carry people and materials into space without any need for expensive, dangerous rockets. Plagues have been wiped out by metahuman healers. Metahumans with the power to alter genes and create organisms helped cure cancer and develop an AIDS vaccine. Paladin lifted entire nations out of poverty and debt virtually singlehandedly, because he was willing to spend the billions of dollars he earned through the Paladin Foundation.
Most people now take for granted that they live in an ever-more peaceful, ever-more civilized, ever-more technological world.
What would happen if the metahumans left? Or decided they would no longer be an integrated part of civilization?
The basic social structure has not changed in 50 years. Metahumans still make up less than 0.001% of the population, so most people never actually meet one in person. But invisibly, the metahuman influence is felt everywhere. Most governments are more socialistic than they once were, and the gap between the rich and the poor has narrowed. On the other hand, the fabulously wealthy still live in a completely separate sphere from the rest of the population.
Most countries treat metahumans legally like anyone else, although laws to take metahuman powers into account are now common. Attacking someone with metahuman powers (including superhuman strength or speed) is usually treated as assault with a deadly weapon. Metas are expected to use more caution and restraint when defending themselves against "normals." Some countries (such as the U.S.) treat any sort of uninvited telepathic intrusion into someone's mind as assault, while others treat it merely as a form of snooping or voyeurism. Telepathic influence is almost always considered assault.
Japan is one of the few countries that requires all metahumans to be registered, including visiting foreigners. (France and Turkey are two of the others.) China "encourages" metahumans to register themselves, and harrasses those who don't. There is freqently talk in the United States of attempting to register all metahumans, but it never gets far.
Genetic engineering and the possibility of metahumans procreating until they eventually supplant "normals" has many people worried about the future of the human race. Already, there is something of a divide developing between "genegineered" children and "natural" children, with the middle class demanding the right to have equal access to genetic engineering, and the poor protesting that genegineering is becoming another form of discrimination -- soon only the genegineered will have full access to the best jobs and education and government positions.
Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are mostly unchanged. The major denominations and sects consider metahumans to simply be humans with special powers, and subject to the same moral laws as everyone else. The Pope declared that metahumans are in fact souled human beings in need of salvation like everyone else, which settled the matter for Roman Catholics, at least. Fundamentalist sects have become smaller -- it is hard to reconcile fundamentalist teachings, particularly creationism, with what is now demonstrably true. Some extreme fundamentalist sects have declared metas to be "marked by Satan," but most consider them to be people subject to God's laws as well.
The Church of Christ Metahuman is a splinter sect that is strongest in Mexico and the United States, but has a few adherents in Europe and Africa as well. They teach that Christ was a metahuman and will return from an advanced, "Godly" Galactic society, and that metahumans were appointed by God to prepare the way for Christ's return. Any metahuman who refuses to do the Lord's bidding (i.e., spread the Word), is consciously ignoring the voice of God and thus choosing to ally himself or herself with the Devil. There are a number of high-profile religious metahumans who have joined the CoCM.
The Church of the Immanent Eschaton is more of transcendental movement, akin to Scientology or Theophism. Much smaller than in its heyday, it still has many adherents in North and South America and Europe. "Immanentologists" or "Immanentists" believe that metahumans represent the next stage in evolution for mankind, but that anyone can become a metahuman with proper meditation, physical exercise, diet, and spiritual thoughts. When a sufficient number of the world's population is able to "elevate" themselves to their higher metahuman natures, then a sort of spiritual "critical mass" will carry the rest of humanity with them, and Terrans will join the Galactics as advanced higher beings. Immanentologists believe that metahumans are "elevated" beings who have assumed their true natures, and thus that it would be a sin to interfere with them, as they are following their true destinies no matter what they do. In this their beliefs are remarkably reminiscient of the Null Manifesto -- some Teragens find it quite amusing to bully and harrass Immanentists while declaring that they are following their "true destinies" and reminding the believers that calling for help would be interfering with that.
Islam has had a hard time adjusting to metahumans and aliens. Fundamentalists are torn between coming to the same accomodation other major religions have (that metahumans are just humans with powers), or declaring them a work of Satan. The result has been that even moderate Islam has become more insular, more introspective, and most pious Muslims keep their eyes on the ground, looking to the Earth rather than the stars.
A new "Progressive Islam" movement (mostly Sunni, but a few Shiites) is becoming more popular in Indonesia and among Muslims living in the West. These Muslims do accept metahumans as human, and seek to convert them along with everyone else. Most Muslim metahumans outside the Middle East identify themselves as "progressives."
Kamisama Buddhism originated in Japan, as a synthesis of Buddhism and Shinto, and regards metahumans as divine but not necessarily enlightened. In this respect it is similar to but much more pragmatic than the Church of the Immanent Eschaton. Kamisama Buddhists believe that metahumans each have a special purpose for being on Earth, but they must seek enlightenment and find their purpose, before they can help direct the enlightenment of others. Some Kamisama Buddhists seek to help metas achieve enlightenment and purpose. Kamisama Buddhism is now not very popular in Japan, but it has a following in Southeast Asia, and a smaller following in China and even a few adherents elsewhere in the world. Metahumans inclined towards Buddhism will often seek out Kamisama Buddhist temples, even if they do not necessarily practice that variety of Buddhism, simply because it is where they are most accepted.
The Varaya Shakti movement is even more of a syncretic religion than Kamisama Buddhism. It blends Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and even a little Zoroastrian belief (there is supposed to be an ultimate battle between "good" and "evil"), and is enormously popular in India, has spread throughout China and Southeast Asia, and has many followers in Europe and North America as well.
"Shaktis," as they are somewhat disparagingly called, believe that metahumans are divine beings, with the seeds of enlightenment within them, but they still need guidance like most people in bringing it out. Shaktis also believe that the entire human race should become metahuman -- that metahumans came to Earth to help mankind get past a point at which it was spiritually "stuck," and that the Galactics may be here to help "midwife" the process.
Most significantly, Shaktis believe that in order to accelerate the process of universal enlightenment and divinity, metahumans should be fruitful and multiply, and that all "normal" humans should aid in that process as much as possible. In other words, people should have as many metahuman babies as possible. Some Shaktis go so far as to consider it an act of spiritual regression to have a non-metahuman child.
Coupled with the fact that tantric teachings are an element of the Varaya Shakti movement, Shaktis are often referred to even more disparagingly as "Shakti Whores." In Shakti Centers worlwide, any metahuman of either gender can obtain as many sexual partners as he or she likes, as often as he or she likes, and many of them are quite accomplished. The only catch is that the meta has to agree not to use any sort of birth control. (However, since metahumans are all divine, Shaktis will generally offer themselveves to any meta who wants them even when it is known that the meta cannot have children -- such as the many who were permanently sterilized from 1995-2008.)
This has had the effect of creating a burgeoning population of "Shakti babies," especially in India. The Varaya Shaktis welcome the involvement of any metahuman who wants to help parent the children they sire or bear, but is more than willing to take full responsibility for the raising of any metahuman children. It's only because so many metas find the idea of being used as studs/broodmares for universal human enlightenment immoral, unacceptable, or just plain creepy that there aren't more metahumans growing up in Varaya Shakti centers.
Technology is much more advanced in 2045. It's not "Star Trek" -- not yet. Someone from the beginning of the century brought forward to 2045 would see a lot that was impressive and remarkable, but not much that would seem otherworldly or "magical."
Vehicles are still usually wheeled, but hovercars (riding on air cushions) are fairly common, and in major cities, maglev transportation serves as mass transit. Internal combustion engines are obselete. There are no jetpacks or flying cars yet (actually, there are, but not in mass production), but artificial gravity is a new development, and it's expected that grav vehicles will be a reality within a decade.
Power comes from either cold fusion plants, or beamed solar power, and is usually stored in H-cell batteries. Engines and motors are now quiet and pollution free. People are spoiled by cheap, freely available power, and even the lower middle class can afford to run their air conditioners all day in the summer, and their heaters all day in the winter.
Computers have of course become smaller, cheaper, and faster. Nearly every appliance or machine is smart-chipped and can be connected to the OpNet. Computers still use keyboards (usually flat, rollable ones), but mice are obselete -- there are various touchpads, pointer-sensors, or smartscreens for screen control. Voice recognition is now reliable, so many standard terminals do not have keyboards. A handheld datapad contains all the computing power most people need. Holographic displays exist but are still very expensive; most computer screens are very thin LCD panes mounted on wire stands, or else mini-projectors for wall or canvas displays.
Artificial intelligence remains an elusive goal. Artificial Personality or Acceptable Intelligence machines are becoming popular -- they can't fool an educated human for long, but for handling simple exchanges they sound realistic enough that many people anthropomorphize their "AIs" and even convince themselves that the machine actually is intelligent.
Language translation is deeply connected to artificial intelligence, so there is still no such thing as a "universal translator." However, translating software has gotten good enough to be able to translate texts with better than 95% accuracy, and tourists and businessmen carry translating devices that are able to handle words and phrases well enough to allow adequate communication.
The OpNet allows full digital AV communication across most of the world. Cellphones are now cheap and universal, with most people paying a flat monthly fee for unlimited global calling. There are also "roaming" accounts, meaning you can use any OpNet-connected device to communicate. Some areas (such as rural Australia, parts of Oceania and Africa, etc.) still rely on older communications technology, and there is a surcharge for connecting to those networks... when such connections are possible. A variety of other realtime services are available -- with your cellphone or OpNet connected datapad, you can get realtime basic translation services, or instant medical advice or technical support on virtually any subject, navigation information, etc.
This has made the world something of a "surveillance society," since almost everyone in the industrialized world is carrying digital videocameras capable of broadcasting in realtime to the rest of the world. Of course sorting actual interesting news and/or entertainment from all the noise is an even greater chore than it was in the Internet era.
Medicines can now treat most ailments. There is an AIDS vaccine, and cancer is no more dangerous than an infection. Gene therapy has all but eliminated congenital heart defects, hemophilia, Tasaacs and Sickle Cell disease, Down's Syndrome, and similar genetic disorders, at least in advanced countries. The average lifespan in industrialized countries has risen to 82. Of course the existence of metahuman healers means that for the wealthy, no illness or injury is untreatable.
Weapons are still primarily slugthrowers, though new plastics and chemicals of zero-G manufacture make them lighter and more powerful than ever. The United States is still the maverick of the international community, with lax gun control laws, and no laws yet against the new hand-held laser weapons that are now becoming feasible, although they are still very expensive. The military is experimenting with plasma projectors, and guided missiles are smaller and more accurate than ever before -- a shoulder-launched missile can deliver a warhead capable of taking out nearly any target, at ranges of dozens of miles. (Many law enforcement armories now hold a small stache of shoulder-mounted "metakiller" guided warheads.)
Canada, Mexico, and the United States are much as they were fifty years ago. The United States is still a superpower, but now it is first among equals, rather than the undisputed megapower of the world. The U.S. remains conservative compared to most of the world, and this conservativism is causing it to fall behind technologically.
The North American Open Borders Treaty ended forever the disputes along the Mexican-American border. Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans can travel, live, and work freely throughout the continent. This has raised the standard of living in Mexico, and has not lowered the standard of living in the United States, contrary to many dire warning from opponents of the treaty. However, all of North American did experience a lengthy recession as more and more industries relocated to China or Southeast Asia, then to Africa. Global free trade did bring much of the world to an equilibrium, but it was an equilibrium lower than most Americans and Europeans were used to. It was only the rapid advance of technology and the ability of the Western governments to provide more social services with its reduced spending on law enforcement and the military that kept the standard of living from sinking even lower.
The U.S. is now a three-party system: the Republicans and the New Democrats actually face serious competition from the Green Party in state and local elections, and Greens occupy many Congressional seats. They have yet to win the White House, though.
Brazil was ruled by a metahuman junta for several years, before they finally relinquished power and restored free elections. However, South America is still the most politically unstable region in the world. Ecuador is ruled by a revolving cabal of metahuman dictators, and metahumans are part of a small elite ruling class in Argentina, exercising considerable power over whomever takes office. In the high Andes there are strongholds where the government has ceded authority to the local Indian populations, backed by a few powerful metas of their own, and dotted across the continent are rumored to be Teragens enclaves. Metahumans who want to rule a country often go to South America, where governments still change hands quickly, but metas have found they are no better than normals at avoiding being replaced by another metahuman in another coup.
The United Chinese Republic is the other global superpower. The UCR is more democratic and more free than the PRC was 50 years ago. It is no longer communist (but remains strongly socialist). Chinese can travel freely, choose careers, and decide on their own how many children to have. They have more say in their government. Yet the government is still highly centralized and authoritarian, and still maintains a hot-and-cold relationship with the United States.
Taiwan and Korea are both part of the UCR. While Korea is relatively autonomous, there is a small but persistent nationalist movement in Korea seeking to throw off Chinese domination.
Japan was traumatized by the battle between X and Paladin that scarred its landscape and caused more death and destruction than the country had seen since the Second World War. It became extremely isolationist, making it more and more difficult for foreigners to enter the country, until by 2020, only a few thousand foreigners a year set foot in Japan. Japan became truly a closed society, handling most of its business transactions remotely, through the ever-improving OpNet. Psychological disorders are said to be increasing throughout the country.
Japanese do not hate metahumans, but they fear and revere them in equal measure. A metahuman cannot live "normally" among humans in Japan -- Japanese will cater to a meta's every whim with extreme, even obsequious politeness, but they will never treat him or her as a fellow human being. Japanese metas live in their own private enclaves and rarely go out into public.
For the past forty years Japan has reverted to its isolated island nation roots, remaining a fairly wealthy country thanks to its advanced robotics, as well as being the leader in nanotech research. In the past decade the Japanese have shown signs of wanting to open up a little more, though it is still a gradual process. Japan has been almost absent from the space race.
India is another superpower, a leader in genetics and biotechnology, and a country that has embraced its metahumans. Thanks in large part to the Varaya Shakti movement, every metahuman is a celebrity to most Indians, and a divinity to many. India's huge population and underdeveloped industries means that it is one of the few advanced nations that still has an impoverished underclass, though India's poor are nowhere near as bad off as they were in the 20th century. Almost everyone has access to adequate food, drinking water, and shelter, though medical care often has to be provided by volunteer metahuman healers.
India has never really been able to get into the space race, despite its efforts to do so. India finally launched an L5 station in 2031, which was not completed until 2040.
Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia are no longer impoverished Third World countries with an endemic sex trade. Early in the century, Project Unity pretty much put an end to the child prostitution rings, starting in Bangkok and then working through the rest of the region, and as things improved throughout Southeast Asia, there was less starvation, less disease, and less sex trafficking. When Project Unity collapsed, many feared a return to the bad old days, but local metahumans acted as a meta-law enforcement agency, not only putting an end to the child sex slavery and drug smuggling, but the piracy that had been rampant at sea as well.
Vietnam is now a major center of computer science research. Thailand still earns much of its income from tourism, especially with its revitalized jungles and tropical islands. Cambodia and the Philippines remain poor, but its people are not desperate or hungry, merely jobless, for the most part.
Australia has regressed, culturally and technologically. Australians are now the "rednecks" of the world, holding a reputation for uncultured belligerence that was typically assigned to Americans half a century ago. While Australia's major cities are as technologically advanced as any in Europe or North America, much of the country has not "upgraded" much at all in the past 50 years. In some cities, the old Internet is still used more frequently than the OpNet! Australia has no L5 stations and has not launched any ships of its own, though Australians remain an adventurous breed and there are many Aussies living and working out in space. (There is an area of Olympus called "Little Sydney.")
Officially, the Australian government protects the rights of metahumans as equal citizens, but the reality is that anti-metahuman prejudice is strong in Australia. Many metas have been driven off the continent, or left in disgust. The few that remain do so because they like Australia, for one reason or another, but usually not because they like Australians.
New Zealand is not quite such a cultural or technological backwater as Australia, but it is similarly mistrustful of metahumans. Several metas are known to have large, isolated estates in New Zealand, but they rarely make public appearances. New Zealanders are active in space exploration, and New Zealand is also a leading center of oceanographical research. In the past 50 years, as space colonies multiplied, there has been frequent talk and even some plans for "underwater cities." However, while there are many underwater research stations, where scientists and even occasional tourists can live for weeks at a time, no permanent habitations have been built yet. New Zealand currently has plans to put the first permanent underwater settlement on the Pacific Ocean floor by 2050.
Like Thailand, these countries have benefitted greatly from metahuman-sponsored environmental cleanup. The Paladin Foundation did a great deal to restore the rainforests, jungles, and mangrove swamps, and "eco-tourism" is now a major industry. Furthermore, Malaysia has become something of a hot spot for metahumans who want to live in an exotic, somewhat remote locale. Dozens of metas have purchased estates and even entire islands in the archipelego, encouraged by the Malaysian government, who sees a bunch of metahuman residents with a vested interest in keeping the country safe, stable, and clean as being a lot cheaper than a large military.
Indonesia is somewhat less welcoming of metas, as Islam has never really come to grips with metahumans. Indonesia is now the home of "Progressive Islam" -- the closest Islam has come to a "reform" movement, and while many Indonesians are still wary of metas (and there is a small but vocal vehemently anti-metahuman contingent), metahumans are not oppressed or harrassed as they are in other Muslim countries.
Indonesia has a small L5 station, where they manufacture advanced pharmaceuticals and other zero-G synthetic materials, now the country's main export.
The many other small island nations -- Fiji, Tonga, French Polynesia, etc. -- have remained mostly unchanged, except that they too have benefitted from environmental cleanup and the destruction of organized crime. Advanced technology has moved slowly into the islands, with most of them now enjoying OpNet connections, and many receiving beamed satellite power, but much of the population finds it enjoys a slower, less technologically advanced life, and so there is a movement throughout the islands to limit change and preserve their old culture and ways as much as possible. Of course, it is hard to argue against the benefits of new medicines and life-prolonging genetic treatments, but most islanders prefer to keep new technology as inobtrusive as possible.
Some Polynesian islands, being remote and somewhat cut off from the rest of the world, have become metahuman retreats (some say "Teragens enclaves"). But Earth First! has a strong presence on the islands as well. They are leading agitators against change, but they also are responsible for many grass-roots anti-metahuman, anti-space exploration, anti-Galactic movements.
The Sahara desert is becoming grassland, bringing farmlands to North Africa and improving their living conditions, but also changing their way of life. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria formed the North African Coalition of States, after OPEC collapsed. NACS is trying to keep up technologically with the rest of the world, but with few natural resources now that oil is an almost worthless commodity, they are split between banking and agricultural production, with Egypt and Libya going the agricultural route, and exploring the possibility of producing new genegineered crops that might have a gourmet appeal, and Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria attempting to become the new financial center of the Mediterranean and beyond. Morocco and Algeria are both popular as vacation spots, with the world-famous nightclub Sultana's in Tangier, rivaling the Amp Room on nearby Ibiza. Unlike the Amp Room, Sultana's is open to metahumans and humans alike, but only the rich, powerful, and beautiful. The Amp Room has become more of a hangout for Teragens socialites, whereas Sultana's has a slightly more tolerant (though still elitist) atmosphere.
Egypt is the most tolerant of modern Arab states when it comes to metahumans. Several metahumans serve in the Egyptian government, and "Progressive Islam" has a following here that has kept the fundamentalists at bay.
The U.A.S. is now the largest country in the world, in terms of area. It is a representative republic, organized along similar lines as the U.S. government, though each African "state" has much more autonomy than American states, and many still operate almost as independent countries. The capital, Addis Ababa, is one of the cleanest, most modern cities in the world, and the metahumans who serve as the U.A.S.'s official meta-military and law enforcement agency are based here, calling themselves "Unity Africa," after the old Unity Teams. Africans (especially Eastern Africans) are still enormously grateful to metahumans for ending the war and starvation that had plagued their continent for generations, and many metas consider the U.A.S. one of the most tolerant and accepting places for them to live -- by and large, they are neither feared nor worshipped nor envied, but simply respected.
The U.A.S. has not quite caught up technologically to Europe, China, and the U.S., but they are almost there, and has become a major player in space exploration and settlement.
South Africa is the only other major country in sub-Saharan Africa. Racial tensions between blacks and whites have never faded completely, and while the country is no longer the basket case it was at the turn of the century (South Africa was essentially saved by the AIDS Vaccine and metahumans who forcibly halted tribal warfare), it is still barely keeping itself above Third World status. South Africa still has a significant crime problem, coupled with tensions with its larger neighbor to the north. The population is split between metahuman-worshippers and radicals associated with the World Council on Human Affairs.
Besides South Africa, there are only a few pockets of territory on the African mainland that are not part of the U.A.S. Ghana is ruled (more or less benevolently) by metahumans who choose to remain independent of the U.A.S. There are pockets of "independent territory" in Chad, Congo, and Rwanda ruled by dictators, either metahumans or backed by metahumans. The U.A.S. has elected not to crush them, as it would result in bloody warfare and many civilian casualties, and none of the people in these "pocket kingdoms" seem to be starving or subjected to massacres. However, sooner or later something will have to be done about them -- these private fiefdoms of greedy dictators are the last remaining vestiges of Africa's dark, post-colonial past, and most Africans want them gone.
Israel enjoys peace -- mostly. Hamas was finally wiped out in 2021, and the establishment of Palestine as an independent state, and more importantly, the collapse of most of the old Gulf regimes, has eased tensions throughout the Middle East as Israel is no longer either an oppressor or a scapegoat. However, feelings still run deep and bitter, and Israel still maintains an aggressive military, and actively recruits Jewish metahumans to "defend the Jewish homeland," even though there has been no real military or terrorist attack against Israel for over 20 years. But there are many Palestinians who still believe that all of the Levant rightfully belongs to them, and most of the Arab world still dislikes Israel on general principle. No peace treaty was ever signed, so Israel's border is much like the Korean DMZ of fifty years ago -- there hasn't been any fighting in years, but there could be, any time, though with each passing year that seems more and more unlikely. Arab and Israeli metahumans do engage in skirmishes frequently, though, and Israel is constantly accusing its neighbors of using metas to spy on or sabotage Israeli industries.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 2030 had Israel on alert and almost ready to launch missiles at its neighbors. To this day, many Israelis believe it was deliberately engineered by enemies of Israel, though most believe it was simply a tragic case of a metahuman with uncontrollable powers. (It is not even known whether the metahuman who destroyed Jerusalem was an Israeli or an Arab.)
Liberated in 2004, and then used as a launching point for the liberation of the rest of the Gulf in 2020, Greater Iraq now dominates most of the Persian Gulf, with the exception of Arabia al-Islamia. It is a democracy, but many accuse it of being a fairly corrupt one, with a metahuman cabal acting as kingmakers and exercising a lot of the real power in the country. Still, Greater Iraq has become modernized and fairly prosperous in the last few decades, and the people are free of oppression, terror, and war, so few complain.
Formerly Saudi Arabia, Arabia al-Islamia is a fundamentalist theocracy living under strict Sunni laws. It is also a dirt poor desert backwater, turning against technology and modernization, and for the most part, contact with the outside world. Muslim metahumans serve important positions in the government, and enforce the country's isolation. There is some desire to "free" the country from outside, but Arabia al-Islamia permits regular visits by Project Unity inspectors, who verify that the population, for the most part, likes things the way they are. The Mullah's rule is austere, but not brutal like that of the Taliban a couple generations ago. Women still have few rights, but knowing that that is a hotbutton issue for meddling Western bleeding hearts, the Mullahs have made beatings and lashings illegal, and the vast majority of Arabian women do not seem to want to leave their Islamic society.
Iran is now a democracy, theoretically a secular one like Turkey, though in practice only those with strong Muslim credibility can be elected (much like Christians in the U.S.). It is still a country with an identity crisis. Half the population adores metahumans and thinks Iran has not gone far enough in modernizing, the other half mistrusts metas and thinks a return to traditional values, and rejection of untested new technologies like "genegineering," is essential to preserving the Iranian national identity. Oddly, though, it is now the younger generation that is turning conservative, while it is the older generation that grew up in the early decades of the 21st century that continues pushing for more progress.
While there is perennial talk of a "European Confederation," Europe remains divided into the same countries that existed 50 years ago, though the EU has become much stronger and more of a unifying body. Europe is probably the continent that has changed the least politically since the dawn of the Metahuman Era. Britain and Germany remain the wealthiest and most powerful European nations, though Russia is finally, finally, becoming almost respectable. Much of Russia is still "rough" and corruption is still common, though the anarchy, lawlessness, and rule by criminal syndicates has been mostly abolished.
France is still poor and has never recovered completely from the devastation of the first Chinese space station falling on it. Paris is poorly maintained nowadays, and French wines have not produced a good vintage in years. Even the efforts of metahumans have not been able to completely remove the damage from French soil and water.
Glenn Station, High Nyumba, and Khantze Lu Ge are the three largest L5 stations parked in orbit between the Earth and the Moon. Britain, Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, and India all have smaller stations, and there is a ninth station that is jointly run by several smaller European and Asian countries, with Project Unity oversight. With the addition of the Teragens' L5 station Fasalt, space around the Earth is now fairly crowded, as most of the L5's have to share a Lagrange point and thus continually adjust their positions. There are about 25,000 people living on the ten L5's.
Hermes Base is still small, as the distance and difficulty in getting people onto the innermost planet is still great. However, there are now 50 people living on Mercury for 6 months or more at a time. Mercury has the potential for some valuable mining and heavy industries, as well as energy research, so several corporations are investigating ways to efficiently exploit it.
The Moon has only one major colony -- Olympus, which is now a full-fledged city of 30,000, and likely to grow rapidly now that artificial gravity is available. Besides Olympus, there are numerous small satellite outposts across the lunar surface, none with a population greater than 30. Luna's major industries are mining and (increasingly) tourism. Luna is an international territory, technically administered by the UN, but the United States has the most influence over its policies.
Mons Aries, the Teragens colony on the dark side of the Moon, stays isolated from other lunar residents. No one who is not a metahuman goes near Mons Aries, and in fact people generally dislike going anywhere near the dark side. The population of Mons Aries is unknown, but rumored to be about 2,000..... most of whom are in fact "normals." The Teragens hire humans as staff, and pay them very well, but no normal who leaves Mons Aries talks about it....
Mars now has two cities: Burroughs Colony (pop. 40,000), and Podkayne (pop. 8000), with about a dozen other small "towns" with populations of 100-800. Mars does some mining, but mostly it is becoming a center for heavy industry, and Project Unity is working with some metahumans to investigate the possibility of terraforming. Already a few small areas have been domed and made capable of supporting some hardy crops.
Burroughs Colony is an American territory, but Podkayne is a UN-administered international colony. Mars itself, like all the other planets and moons in the Solar System, is international territory.
Although some metahumans have gone down to the Venusian surface and collected valuable scientific data, Venus is at the moment only a scientific curiousity. Evening Star Station (but everyone calls it "Peralandra Station") has a crew of 25 in permanent orbit.
The U.A.S. recently put a small outpost called Kiremte on Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon. All of the space-faring nations have been scouting potential locations for bases on other moons of Jupiter and Saturn, with the U.S. planning a base on Tethys by 2053. There are several deep space stations, carried out into the outer system by Paladin or some other meta, such as the massive Hawkings Telescope currently parked in orbit around Uranus. Some corporations also want to begin privatized mining of the asteroid belt, but most early proposals involve hiring metahumans to do most of the work.
The Shabaali have an outpost on Europa, and the Sebth have one on Titan. Shabaali ships are seen dropping in and out of hyperspace to dock with their outpost about once a month. The Sebth seem to go much longer between rotations, as their jumpships only appear 2-3 times a year. They regularly send delegations to Earth to speak to UN officials, but almost never address Earth's public.