Set on a pre-apocalyptic Earth already left behind by the wealthy and the privileged, Verona follows a team of extractors – 22nd century treasure hunters – who secure and transport anything desirable from our dying planet to the colonies, regardless of size. Inspired by the cult television series Firefly and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this is a third-person action adventure that keeps on challenging you to ponder the material or emotional value of the riches you find.
The global hysteria caused by the 2020 discovery was all consuming, and had profound effects on all walks of life. Science was not spared: the general population and politicians alike started putting extreme pressure on scientist of every field to sacrifice all of their resources for finding a way to save the planet.
But of course, there was no way – you can't overpower the forces of the universe. However, not all was lost: when the grasshopping technology was discovered at the beginning of the 2060s, fleeing the doomed Earth became a possibility.
In 2062, astronomers frantically looking for habitable planets in the vicinity of our Solar System came out with findings they thought are 95% accurate. The scientists were convinced the planet Kepler-22b (later renamed to Icarus, for convenience sake) was almost positively habitable for human settlers, although the term „almost” filled the masses with dread.
The first hopping attempt was a complete success. Kepler-22b proved to be a planet brimming with natural resources and an amazing flora and fauna, with animal species and vegetation unseen.
Although, there was a problem with the atmosphere. After returning to Earth, the astronauts visiting Kepler-22b started to die, one by one. The Ikarian atmosphere was not that harmless at all – even though the air on Kepler-22b was „almost” a complete match to Earth's, in 0,0000000094% it contained a strain of mutated, lethal variation of methan.
The next dozen hoppers launched in the 2070s were all shipping equipment to Icarus to build a gigantic atmosphere purifier facility. In a year the facility has became operational, and in 5 years the Icarian atmosphere was completely breathable and safe for humans. Simultaneously, a second, similarly habitable planet was discovered in a nearby system: the astronomers named it Siriad.
In the decades following the start of the colonization, almost 1 million earthlings took the transports from the old, dying planet to the new one. This is of course just a very small fragment of humanity – the richest fragment; those who were capable of paying the cost of travel and living on an alien planet. Colonial real estate and infrastructure on Icarus were maintained, sold and provided by gigantic corporations, operating mostly from Siriad.
By the early 22nd century, most of the land on Icarus’ sole continent was sold: approximately 45 million square miles were in the hand of its single million inhabitants. Transports still depart from Earth, on a daily basis – but these ships now transport employees and workforce: servants to the masters. Still, you need to be quite rich or pretty much talented to get your hands on a ticket to ride.
A religious leader and a walking, presumably talking enigma. A terrorist mastermind, No.1 on the Ten Most Wanted list of the Global Traffic Department. A man who’s considered impossible to catch, as nobody has the slightest idea how he actually looks.
There is no photo, no video footage, not even a drawing of him. His followers swore never to disclose anything about him – in fact, there is a persistent rumor among the ranks of the GTD that even his own men have never seen him.
The authorities perceive God of Africa as an enemy. Yet, there is a movement among those left behind that firmly believe he is something much more – their savior, a redeemer perhaps. Someone, who will save them, after decades of living through the hell on Earth.
For many years, his troops committed their acts of terrorism always against governmental facilities and the forces of the GTD, while carefully trying to avoid civilian casualties. He’s a curiosity – a cult leader among the hundreds of cult leaders that cropped up since the beginning of the end and soon proved himself to be a serious force to be reckoned with.
The GTD has no exact data, but the cult of God of Africa has at least 25,000 members: fanatics ready for anything, even self-sacrifice for a cause…
A cause, that the GTD intelligence reports have no idea of. Nobody knows anything about what the God of Africa wants. He never demanded anything, and his followers just do his bidding, no matter how dangerous or absurd. He is a leader for the craziest of times.
Because no matter what he does: blows up the long dried up, gigantic Tarbela Dam in Pakistan, kidnaps the daughter of a high ranking GTD officer (to release her after she learned all verses of an old Sailor Moon show main theme) or organizes a full scale, futile attack on the walls of Verona – he’s perceived an unpredictable, dangerous man, a killing joke. Someone the GTD has no idea how to eliminate or even capture.
Yet, the number of his followers grows by the day…
Founder and CEO of Cargill Spaceways, the largest extraction corporation and rival of the employer of the Queen Mab’s crew, Ivan Zádori. Notorious for keeping a harem of cloned “specimens” of the most beautiful women in human history including Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Marilyn Monroe amongst others.
The Cargill fortune is the biggest in the known universe – though he inherited it. The family made most of its money before the Earth started to shift towards the Sun. Earlier generations of Cargills were active on the factor market. Cargill still has the largest, most established network of factories, although no mining is taking place on Earth anymore.
The new course the planet suddenly has taken decades ago caused panic all over Earth. Anarchy broke out everywhere. The richest oil barons gathered to an impromptu conference in Saudi‐Arabia. Cargill’s grandfather arrived to the conference with a small army of his men, and a nuclear warhead stolen from a silo in Idaho. For two weeks he held the richest people of the planet hostage, torturing them in extreme ways. He gathered all of their secrets, the access codes of their bank accounts – and after he got what he needed, he blew Riyadh up, down on their heads.
There is also an unsubstantiated rumor that Cargill has murdered the entire royal Windsor family. The Windsors sold all their assets and expenditures, and like everybody since the end of the world started to come, they bought a fantastic amount of gold.
Three of Cargill’s ships were supposed to transport the whole family and their fortune to the colonies. But… everything has disappeared. The Windsors, the ships and of course the gold. Rumor has it that Cargill has a snuff video in his possession depicting the demise of the family, filmed by one of the captains of the disappeared ships. Cargill occasionally re‐watches the video for his own entertainment.
Cargill makes most of his money nowadays by mining raw materials not found on the colonies – but at the same time he has his hands in all kinds of shady business, value extraction included.
He has a luxury suite on his favorite spaceship, the Root Canal Treatment – it is the ship he keeps his harem on as well. The dirty work is usually done by his well‐trained and ruthless mercenaries.
An elegant, tall gentleman, Baako is the business developer and the mission architect of the Queen Mab. His name means “First born / When he was born, we thought he is gonna die” in a zulu dialect.
His mother was a leading scientist at a Johannesburg research facility – she could have taken any transport to the colonies, because her knowledge was needed and valued. Yet she decided to stay and help whenever and whoever she can. She moved to work in Tierra del Fuego, and decided to leave Earth only when she got pregnant, to provide a safe upbringing to her child.
The small, personal transport was launched from Cape Horn. Couple of dozens of transbums tried to get on the ship at the last minute, but the sudden gain in weight was fatal; the small ship couldn’t get higher than a few meters. The crew started to fight with the transbums, throwing people out of the ship.
Baako’s mother tried to hide, but got in the hubbub and was thrown out as well. She fell 40 meters. Almost by miracle, she didn’t die right away. She gave birth to Baako in a skid row, shanty town hospital, then she passed away.
The orphan grew up hustling and dealing all his life, and he made quite a sum by the time he was an adult, heading his own enterprise. But he wanted more excitement. That’s when he met the captain of the Queen Mab, who asked him to come along and become the business manager of the ship... AND to make even more money in the proccess. Baako accepted the offer.
His face is discreetly tattooed – for this reason, he is banned from most colonial swimming pools (where the old ban against the yakuza is still alive). His crew mates taunt him about this all the time.
Deaf‐mute mechanic and utility man of the extractor spaceship Queen Mab. Lover of Leonid Bukovsky.
Corentin comes from extreme poverty. Orphaned at an early age, he used to be a child stowaway, but captain Kimura, instead of kicking his ass off into deep space took a liking to him. He has been an ardent follower of the captain and a trusted member of the crew ever since.
His sole means of communication is sign‐language – a method of communication only Jesse and captain Kimura are familiar with. If anyone else wants to tell him something, they have to do it in writing.
An extremely introverted young man, Corentin spends his free time playing pre-cataclysm video games and researching vintage trading cards. He collects them religiously and shares his passion with Jesse. Other crewmembers occasionally bring back such treasures for him from various missions.
Corentin is a sort of a good luck charm of the ship – everybody likes him, and everybody likes to bust his balls, in a friendly way. It’s probably because he is always smiling, with a Zen‐like attitude usually reserved for persons with a rich inner life. He doesn’t get upset about the jokes other crewmembers play on him, in fact, he is seemingly incapable of getting mad at anybody.
As a mechanic, he has an extremely vast knowledge of machinery. He knows everything about the ship, but also about vehicles of every imaginable kind. He absolutely loves tinkering with them – in fact, he likes to spend his time more with machines and his books than with people. Of course he would never disclose this to anybody.
Queen Mab’s weapon master, Russian ex‐Spetznaz, a human mountain; his nickname is Zangief (because he vaguely resembles the Street Fighter‐character of the same name).
While Bukovsky is friendly at first sight, he has a personal history scary enough to ensure that anyone who have lived through and survived it is a man not to be fucked with. He was forced to become a master of killing.
During the Decade of Famine (2092-2102), a global disaster caused by the depletion of most of Earth’s food supplies (one of the reasons GTD was founded to mend the situation, and it did took care of it the best it could), tens of thousands resorted to cannibalism. The Russian state’s solution was simple, but effective, as usual: they threw them into Siberian concentration camps. Young Bukovsky, on the brink of starvation, suddenly got a new job: he became a guard at one of these camps.
The things he saw, he never talks about. They guarded monsters and to do a proper job, the guards themselves had to become monsters.
One night a riot broke out at the camp. The prisoners overran the guards and many of them were shred to pieces and eaten. Hundreds of fugitive cannibals were spread all over Siberia, and Bukovsky was one of the specialists assigned to hunt them down.
He did this for 8 long years: walking the mountain paths and the endless fields of Mother Russia, hunting and killing: and while he did that, he learned how to use every man made weapon and trap imaginable.
He never used a map, he just went where the wind called him. This is why he was so surprised when he walked into the harbour town of Vladivostok, once the proud home of the Russian Navy and the gate to the now dwindling ocean. There, in one of the bars (he still remembers its name: Blednij Medwed – The Pale Bear) he met Captain Kimura, who invited him into a better life.
He took the chance.
Maria is the archeology expert of the team, hired after the unfortunate death of her predecessor, Dr. Sova – an event that proved that archeology is a dangerous profession in any era. She has a tilakaya – a red dot – on her forehead, symbolizing her Hindi faith. An emblem of beauty and purity that she proudly wears, showing her aspiration to reach these in their perfect form.
Maria was hand picked for the job by the benefactor and sole investor of the Queen Mab operations, the mysterious billionaire Ivan Zádori. Even though Maria is quite uncertain about her abilities and chances of survival in this dangerous position on an extractor ship, Zádori sees the potential in her, trusts her knowledge and he is certain that the girl will stand her ground.
Sudarto studied at the University of Saint Petersburg. She was by far the most promising student of her faculty. Her parents fled Sri Lanka when she was only a baby, trekking across Central Asia and Russia, taking on any job they could find just to give their daughter a satisfactory life.
Zádori has promised Maria to help her parents to move to the colonies, but only if Maria proves herself to be a valuable “asset”. The young scientist is ready to earn his trust, even if she has to walk over dead bodies for it… only Jesse sees that there is more to her demure behavior than what meets the eye.
Captain of the Queen Mab. A genius tactician, who swore an oath never to set foot on Earth ever again. The only occasion he is willing to debark his beloved ship is when they visit the colonies. Outside, his body is covered with countless scars of a life spent fighting and most of his inside organs have been replaced with cloned version of the damaged ones. During the last procedure, he asked the surgeon that next to his liver he should put a small, reinforced storage space to hold his flask filled with “Troubled Water”.
This is a strange liquid – even leading scientists were unable to analyze it. It sticks to the outer walls of spaceships during hyperspace jumps. It has an incredible price on the black market thanks to the complications of its collection. When a ship exits hyperspace (only the most high‐tech ships are able to jump, because the technology is extremely expensive) this liquid materializes and freezes to the outer hull – and right away dozens of specialized drones exit the ship to start collecting the Troubled Water.
This stuff, either in its liquid, or in its crystallized form, gets the user super high in seconds, even after consuming an extremely small amount. After consuming a bigger amount, the user slips into a catatonic state. While so, he or she travels back mentally to a freely chosen event of their life, to relive or to change them, even though it’s a well-known fact that such attempts remain futile. Users of Troubled Water are often sufferers of depression: they can travel mentally where they want, but they can’t change a thing. The side effects of Troubled Water are even more interesting: long time users get to have so called “modular sexuality”: after a while she/he can change their gender by will (the change itself is a 5 minutes long, painful process). The captain is a Troubled Water‐junkie, in fact he uses it BECAUSE of the gender bending side effect.
Kimura grew up in Osaka, in a relatively poor family. He studied at the Osaka Military Academy, but his military career got derailed soon after East Asia submerged into the warmed-up ocean. He lost his parents soon after, finding relief in all kinds of addictions, while working as a first mate of a cargo ship.
Jesse’s father saved Kimura from becoming a homeless drunk. They have become best friends; in fact Owen Samson was the guy who taught him everything about being a professional extractor. At that time Samson was the captain of the Eiko Maru, and Kimura became his navigator. After the death of his friend, the billionaire Zádori made Kimura captain of the Queen Mab. The crew of the Queen Mab was hand picked by Kimura.
The crew respects Kimura both as a tactician and as a wise leader – the only problem is that ever since Troubled Water has surfaced on the black market, Kimura became unpredictable, and some of his decisions are downright strange. The crew is worried that their captain’s addiction will one day get them into a situation with disastrous consequences. The fact that Kimura appears to change his/her gender almost every day also makes them rather nervous.
Between Kimura and Jesse there is an almost father‐son (and sometimes mother‐son) bond none of them accept consciously, yet alone appreciate.
Jesse, our hero is quite the hotheaded, reckless sort. The reason to his behavior is a childhood trauma: he witnessed the death of his father 15 years ago. Jesse is looking for his place in this chaotic world – he is aware that the only person he can fully rely on is his own self (even if Captain Kimura acts as a sort of surrogate father to him).
Jesse’s nature is curious, sometimes a bit naive, yet he can be cold and ruthless when the situation requires it. But *only* when the situation requires it – to his few friends he is loyal to the end.
Jesse’s father Owen Samson was the captain of the space ship Eiko Maru, where the current captain of Queen Mab, Shinobu Kimura was the navigator. During a routine mission (their first in Zádori’s fleet) they were transporting raw bauxite to a Grasshopper (Grasshoppers are gigantic cargo ships capable of space jump).
The Eiko Maru was just exiting Earth’s atmosphere when they have noticed two unknown ships colliding. They have changed their course to help them. To save the injured, crewmembers exiting Eiko Maru had to put their space suits on, and take a short space walk. Owen Samson was among them.
Back then, “shipjackings” were frequent: pirates crashed into and boarded ships with valuable cargo. In this case, the attacked ship was transporting something extremely important, as a GTD (Global Traffic Department) patrol ship has arrived in the vicinity just minutes after the Eiko Maru – and they have completely misunderstood the situation. They identified the Eiko Maru as the attacker, and started shooting at the ship right away.
Kimura was trying to save everybody, but after a while he had no choice but to get the hell out of there. Owen Samson was killed just before reaching the Eiko Maru.
Ever since then notions of revenge fuel Jesse – but that doesn’t cloud his judgement in his position as the navigator of the Queen Mab, Zádori’s favourite extractor ship, now commanded by Kimura.
The origin of the pale scar on Jesse’s neck is anyone’s guess. It looks like he had his throat cut when he was a child – then the wound has healed, and as the boy grew, the scar grew with him.
The crew of the Queen Mab loves Jesse with all their hearts, yet they are very much aware that the kid is unpredictable and has a few personality problems.