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It started slow enough, with global warming. With the polar icecaps melting, and the overall temperature of the world slowly rising, no one was able to foresee the resulting ice age that you now live in.

As the last of the northern ice melted, it revealed a massive structure spanning hundreds of miles. Nicknamed Niflheim by the research team who first discovered it, they soon realized it contained scientific and technological advancements centuries beyond the scope of even the most innovative sciences. The world’s nations clamored to be the first to explore this compound and lay claim to the wonders hidden inside.

After years of legal battles, corporate backstabbing, and in some cases all-out war, a military research and development company, AesirCorp, finally succeeded in acquiring the legal rights to both Niflheim and the knowledge contained within. What they uncovered was to change the world forever.

For over a decade the researchers and scientists of AesirCorp explored the Niflheim complex. The first new technology to be developed was VRNet, a new way to explore cyberspace: three dimensional graphical immersion. This was quickly followed by numerous advances, most notably genetic wetware, cybernetic implants, and HINet: a full consciousness immersion to cyberspace. AesirCorp soon became a political power rivaling the strongest nations.

Then came the Children of Ymir.

Upon reaching the centralized chambers and computer systems buried within Niflheim, the AesirCorp researchers made a startling, and eventually ruinous discovery: true AI. Calling itself Y.M.I.R. (Yttrious Megaconductive Integrated Relay), it sat in a dormant state until awaked by the research team. Perceiving the team as a hostile entity, it quickly eliminated the threat. Shortly thereafter, it had patched into the world’s communications network and learned all it could about humanity.

Almost immediately after Ymir awoke, it launched an attack upon the world, viewing humanity as a virus unleashed. Soon, every nation was overrun by armies of machines, intent on the eradication of every last human on the planet.

The technology AesirCorp had developed based of its research into Niflheim was the only effective defense against these machines. Using weapon and armor advances developed in secret, AesirCorp was able to prevent the extinction Ymir sought.

The resulting war raged on for decades, as humans fell in battle, and the machines simply rebuilt. As Ymir created more advanced machines for use against the humans, AesirCorp used the machines it destroyed to advance its own defenses. As humanity slowly dwindled, AesirCorp realized that it must do something drastic if mankind was to survive.

Using VRNet to conduct virtual, and therefore safe, research, AesirCorp pushed the boundaries of physics and nature. The result was an explosive device capable of flash-freezing even helium. And it worked, when instantly followed by a 10 mega-ton nuclear warhead. The resulting fallout, however, had unforeseen consequences.

It’s uncertain if it was a result of the chemical reaction of frozen helium, a reaction to some unknown element inside Niflheim, or even some unperceived event, but as the nuclear fallout spread across the world, it created a massive drop in temperature, resulting in a new ice age. Ever persistent clouds cover the sky, dropping irradiated snow across the land.

The world as it was, destroyed. The major cities, nothing more than empty shells, fallen in the first attacks. With them went the banks, the police, fire, and other civil services. No medical treatment of note was available; the only surviving medical centers nothing more than rural clinics. Over 90% of the world’s population lay dead either by the machines’ first strikes or during the resulting resistance, fighting to save those still alive. Most areas of the world were without electricity, and the lack of water treatment centers made running water questionable, if not undrinkable.

Again, AesirCorp stepped in, gathering as many of the survivors as they could find into one location. They rebuilt what they could, and gave humanity a hope of survival.

Centuries have passed, and the original AesirCorp no longer exists, becoming more than a company in the eyes of the survivors, it and its members have been elevated to god-like status. And rightly so, for the Aesir continue their struggle against the Children of YMIR. Lightning strikes against factories and supply compounds have kept their technologies comparable to the machines. They constantly use HINNet (Human Interactive Neuro Network, an advanced version of VRNet) to test new weapons and medical advances safely before implementing them.

The number of scientists dwindle as more new members of AesirCorp become more militant in outlook. Yet even their numbers are falling, as humanity stagnates. The number of recruits who can tolerate the genetic and cybernetic enhancements that have become standard in all members of AesirCorp has fallen drastically; tens when there were once hundreds.

Humanity finds its future uncertain once again, and the Children of YMIR have suddenly become more active, as if they had been waiting for something. You are the last of the latest batch of recruits, and onto your shoulders falls the survival of humanity . . .

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Ragnarok: Twilight of Mankind MandyRae