Night City: Introduction
The City of Los Angeles, City of Angels, City of Lights. The jewel of the west coast, it sports the second-highest paranormal population of any city in the world. From the smog-laden canyons of glass and steel in Downtown Los Angeles, to the pearly sand of the beach at Laguna Niguel, to the crystal-clear mountain sky above Big Bear Lake, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas offer nearly every terrain. It is a paradise where dreams come true, and the sidewalk is lined with stars.
But all is not well in the City of Angels. It is a place where street gangs have members that can bench-press mack trucks, paranormal terrorists destroy planeloads of innocent bystanders for jabberwocky causes, and even the Vanguard, the most respected superheroes in the City of Lights, are not safe walking the streets.
Welcome to Night City.
In the World
The year is 1995, and despite their proliferation, paranormals have not had a great impact on world affairs. Superpowered humans, who first appeared in 1908, have become more common each generation, until now at least 4,000 are known worldwide. Although an insignificant fraction of the population statistically (literally one in a million), genetically this is a veritable population explosion for which no one has a convincing explanation.
In World Wars I and II paranormals served both the Axis and the Aliies: most died in the conflict. In the Falklands War, a paranormal mercenary destroyed a British warship. In the attempted coup by the military during the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian superhero Captain Communist held the line against the hardline generals who tried to seize the reigns of power, holding his own in a fight against a battalion of Soviet Tanks. In more recent news, a small group of superheroes sanctioned by the United Nations have tried to help keep the peace in Bosnia. In nearly every world crisis, paranormals have tried to have a positive effect, and many of them have paid for this idealism with their lives.
In the United States
Since the first heroes appeared in Europe in 1908, each generation has spawned more powerful paranormals than the generation before. Paranormals become more common with each passing decade, as well, although they still constitute only a tiny fraction of the world's population.
The United States seems to have the most superheroes, but this is a mistaken impression. What happens is that superheroes across the USA migrate to large cities, so that urban areas have much higher concentrations of paranormals. With the entire paranormal population of the USA concentrated in a few cities, it appears that the USA has a higher percentage of paranormals than anywhere else on earth.
The relationship between paranormals and the public is much like the relationship between civilians and the police: all paranormals are blamed for the threat posed by those few who abuse their powers, and normal human beings distrust and often discriminate against paranormals. Normal humans are all too ready to welcome them when trouble comes, however.
In practice, paranormals (or "mutants," as the ignorant populace refers to them) are slandered, misunderstood, and generally treated badly in everyday society. Their plight is akin to the discrimination experienced by homosexuals in the 1980's, but it is not as bad as the prejudice against blacks in the South in the early to middle twentieth century -- so far, there are no lynch mobs forming to execute "uppity" paranormals, and no recorded instances of normal humans murdering paranormals for their paranormalcy.
Even so, paranormals do not have the equivalent of the homosexuals' San Francisco or the blacks' Atlanta. There is no city where paranormals can feel they are "at home," and there are no universities where paranormals are given scholarships because they are paranormal. Efforts to have paranormals declared a "minority" have been half-hearted, at best. No major political figure has stood up for paranormals' rights, and the best most politicians do is avoid the issue entirely.
In the Law
The law has survived the existence of paranormals with surprisingly few exceptions. It is still illegal to steal from, injure, or kill someone, and the fact an individual has used paranormal abilities to do so makes little difference. Some localities consider using paranormal abilities in the commission of a crime tantamount to using a gun (and carrying the same minimum sentence), but courts have had difficulty drawing the line between what abilities are paranormal and what abilities are not. Psychic evidence is no more admissible in court than are lie detector results (which is to say, not admissible at all). All in all, the law doesn't care if you have superpowers as long as you don't commit crimes with them.
A few isolated cities, Los Angeles and New York among them, have instituted "paranormal registration acts," requiring paranormals to register with the local authorities, giving complete descriptions of their powers, abilities, weaknesses, etc., as well as a local address. This has caused quite a bit of controversy, since it's obvious only paranormals who obey the law would register, thus crippling their ability to fight crime. Some cynics say that this is the actual purpose of the registration acts: to hamstring those who would take their well-being in their own hands, rather than depend upon the State to protect them. In any case, less than 15% of the paranormal population of Los Angeles has registered, and it's estimated that over half of those who have registered are crackpots who don't have paranormal abilities at all.
Between January 1978 and January 1988, the number of reported conflicts between paranormals increased by over four hundred percent. The number of innocent bystanders injured in these conflicts has skyrocketed, as has the property damage caused by these conflicts.
In response to this, one of the last actions President Reagan took while in office was to create the Federal Special Police Division of the F.B.I., sometimes called "Supercops".
The FSPD is intended to deal with paranormal villains that local authorities can't handle, to capture them prior to trial, and to ensure that the criminals serve their sentences. In order to carry out this mission, the FSPD has access to experimental and military-class weaponry, state-of-the-art confinement equipment, and some of the finest agents in the country.
After sentencing, the convicts are taken either to Stronghold Federal Penitentiary (established 1982) in New York State, or to the J.W. Hellstrom Paranormal Secure Holding Facility, aka Hellhole (established 1992, after it was discovered that Stronghold's security was inadequate for many paranormal criminals), which is somewhere in Arizona. The exact location of Hellhole is top secret.
Despite the best efforts of superheroes and the FSPD, paranormal crime is out of control. Vast sums of money and priceless treasures have been lost to criminals who can phase through walls, rip open vault doors, and fire radiation from their hands. All too often, by the time superheroes and the FSPD have been alerted, the criminals are long gone.
All branches of the military have a few paranormals working for them. There are also rumours of experiments to create mass-produced super-soldiers, but no evidence that they are actually doing so (National Star articles aside).