Let’s take a step back, for a moment, and look at why shortwave radio became necessary. As a conduit for data, it’s abominably slow and easily disrupted. So why choose it? As with so much in 2039, it’s because of magic.
The Emergence began (in most people’s estimation) on May 15, 2025 when a flight of dragons emerged from out a vortex, over the city of Xiyatu. Over the course of the next year, vortexes became more and more common and more and more beings Emerged into our world. On May 16, 2026 (a year and a day later), the vortexes reached critical mass.
Massive vortexes opened up simultaneously over every major population center of the globe (and many other places besides). What came out, however, wasn’t monsters, Beyonders, or magical creatures. What came out was total darkness.
They called it “Black Skies”, a total global disappearance of the sun, moon, and stars. The sky, horizon to horizon, was completely black, all over the world. No clouds, no smoke, no obscuring mists, just darkness. And it shrouded the skies.
Radio traffic was disrupted, including communications with orbiting satellites. Power grids went down. Computers failed. Cars stopped working. Flashlights, and all other electrical devices, failed. It was a gigantic, global EMP, but without any explosion.
Temperatures plummeted. Winds died off. Sound became muffled. People saw ghostly beings, wandering through the darkness. It was like living in the Shadow World.
The entire world was shrouded in night, cold, and silence. And it lasted for an entire day.
When the lights came back on, the world was radically different. In Europe, the vortexes released dozens of predator species, including the brutal and cunning Dire Wolves, and caused massive and rampant vegetative growth that continues to this day. (This is the “Green Eruption”.)
In southern Canada, just north of the Dakotas, a massive vortex opened up, changing weather patterns across Canada and letting loose the gigantic armored Vishloess, the savage Losiv (whom people call “yetis”), and the crystalline (and cold-based) insectile Isek. Dakotas’ everlasting struggle dates back to this day.
On the coast of Oregon, the breakaway republic of Jefferson was lost behind a massive anomaly. As far as can be determined, the Black Skies still rule there. No one knows for sure, because no one who enters has ever made it out.
The State of North Carolina (one of the founding members of the Fed) was wiped out overnight. No bodies, no deaths, the entire population of the state just disappeared, right in the middle of whatever they were doing. All that is left are ghost cities, places people used to live, but no more. Only the hardiest, or most desperate, scavenge there, and only the unbalanced live there — ghosts are said to haunt the ruins.
The first Accursed — the vampires, ghouls, weres, and more — appeared shortly after the Black Skies. And though Chicago and Boston didn’t die that die, from that day it was only a matter of time.
Unique events, similar in magnitude, happened all around the globe. And even when the vortexes began to fade (though not all did), the strange events remained.
Radio went out during the Black Skies, and never came back on. No FM, no AM, no microwave, no television. You can set up a transmitter, and even broadcast up to three miles away, but further than that, nothing.
All telecommunications were cut off (including fiber optics and GPS), and most of the planet was isolated from each other. Messages and news were restricted to the speed of foot or car.
After the Black Skies, the vast unreclaimed wilderness became a dark continent. No one knew what was happening there, unless they went and looked. It may as well have been another planet, and that’s what people began thinking of it as: an alien and dangerous land, beyond the world they knew. That’s when all that space — which had once been an unreclaimed part of America — became the foreign country known as The Outlaw.
What they did not know, and would not discover for several weeks, is that shortwave radio still worked. When all other forms of communication failed, shortwave survived. And in the time of chaos after the Black Skies (which caused another wave of violence and breakdown, like a mini-Collapse), shortwave was the only means to communicate across the continent and across the world.