Dragon Magazine (Issue 19)

The fury of the Apocalypse had spent itself. In the days that followed, the few survivors cautiously crept from their hiding places, constantly fearful of, nay, anticipating, a resumption of the unthinkable destruction and toll of death they had experienced, and somehow miraculously escaped. But the air remained still, the ground no longer trembled, and the needs of immediate survival soon pushed needless questioning aside.

The few survivors of the holocaust of 2322 became fewer still; as those without the skills, knowledge, or sheer muscle needed to survive in the post-cataclysmic Earth perished. Survival of the fittest became the prime law of the land once more.

The first few years were the worst. Mutations, both animal and human, appeared. It was a painful, slow learning process to discern the harmless from the harmful, the cruel from the kind, the savage from the tame. The fee for learning was usually paid in blood. Then, too, there were the horrors of the non-living: the robots. Man’s ultimate servants, now mindless and unguided, were, in many cases, his ultimate executioner. And perhaps worst of all was that last fleeting thought, as the jaws snapped, as the fangs pierced, as the claws ripped, as unfeeling metal crushed, as pain mercifully faded into the final darkness; the remembrance of the sweet, sweet life so few short years ago.

The years that followed, the Black Years, were in some respects easier for the survivors, and in some respects more difficult. Each succeeding generation found itself more adapted to its environment, both in a physical sense and with the information gained painfully by their forebearers about the world around them. The more hazardous area of the world were shunned, and the survivors had begun to join in small groups, working towards their common goal of survival. Working thus, these small groups found they no longer needed to devote their entire energies towards survival exclusively. Slowly at first, trade and barter between groups of survivors was established. Religions reformed — considerably altered forms of pre-holocaust religions, but religions nonetheless. There was time for amusements, idle speculations, and for the first altered (at least by most) to include intelligent mutants. Groups of beings cast by the evening cooking fires. But even as the laughter turned to sounds of sleep, a new danger was born, or perhaps an old danger awoke. Man, while perhaps not still homo sapiens, was still man. With trade and barter came jealousy and greed. With the organization of religion came organization of religious hierarchy and the concept of class. And man rediscovered the greatest danger on the entire planet: himself.

As further years took their course, the realization of man as his own enemy became more apparent, although the concept of “man” had to be altered (at least by most) to include intelligent mutants. Groups of beings tended to gravitate towards others of similar ideals and distrust all others, although all but the most outrageously foreign were tolerated to such a degree as was necessary for trade purposes — and also as most groups were too weak to display open hostility for fear of retribution. Substantial evidence indicates that various groups or tribes would unite for the purpose of destroying any that posed a violent threat to the uneasy peace that existed at the time. The correlation of actions between pre- and post-2322 man cannot be denied. This period of time, i.e., the gradual banding together of groups of beings towards their own common goods, is now usually earmarked as the Discovery Period of the Black Years and is (admittedly, somewhat arbitrarily) defined as the years between 2450 and 2511 [see time graph]. Prior to 2450, the survivors of the cataclysm of 2322 had not yet banded info groups large enough for sociological study (and indeed, records for study of the Black Years, as maintained by the Restorationists, one of the groups formed during the Discovery Period, go back only to 2443). 2511 is a convenient cut-off year, however, with the formation of the First Alliance by Gad the Provider.

It is with these basic precepts and understandings, then, that we shall proceed into our study of the Discovery Period.

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excerpted from “The Black Years — A Sociological Examination”
by the author’s permission
Hald Sevrin
Sociologist 1
Rakman University
New Boston, M. L. A