In the mid-25th century, Earth was in sad shape. The population was expanding out of control, despite numerous attempts to corral its growth. The planet's resources were depleted to almost nothing. Something clearly needed to be done soon, or the human race would become extinct.
Colonies on the moon and Mars were built, in an attempt to give the human race somewhere to spread to. These soon proved to be inadequate, however; they cost trillions of dollars to build and maintain, and still relied on Earth's shrinking supply of natural resources. These colonies were abandoned post haste after a series of moon colony cascade failures, killing hundreds and leaving thousands without homes.
There seemed to be no hope for humanity. But then, a team of scientists came up with one final, desperate plan to save the planet: if colonies in outer space wouldn't work, they would try colonies in cyberspace.
The scientists used new computer technologies to actually create hospitable worlds for humankind to populate. These worlds, if programmed properly, would have a breatheable atmosphere, fertile soil, a comfortable climate--and all the resources necessary to support human life.
At the same time, many other preparations were taking place. Colonization parties were recruited to scout the new land. Huge "Gateways" were set up at key points around the globe. These would be the doors by which the colonists would enter their new homes.
Finally, all was ready. The colony worlds were completed, and the Gateways were activated. The world held its collective breath as the explorers took their first steps into cyberspace.
At first, everything went smoothly; the terrain, as promised, was perfectly suited for human habitation. The land was scouted, construction of cities began--and then the colonists hit upon a snag which no one had anticipated.
The scientists were shocked to discover that many of the worlds they had created were already populated by intelligent life-forms. Although they were far from human--most of them looked like Earth animals in humanoid form--they had set up fairly advanced civilizations. They would have loved to study these races further, but they presented a large problem: namely, how to set up colonies when someone else was already there.
Nevertheless, despite this difficulty, the colonization continued unabated. Many conflicts with the natives arose, but were usually settled quickly, sometimes even with martial law. The human population of the colony worlds grew exponentially within just a few months.
Then, an even greater discovery was made: they were not limited to the colony worlds. From there, they could reach any computer on the Net; all of cyberspace was open to them. But with this great discovery came an even greater shock: this new frontier was inhabited as well.
Unlike the inhabitants of the colony worlds, these "sprites," as they called themselves, closely resembled humans. Their civilization was, if anything, more advanced than Earth's. And, more importantly, they didn't take too kindly to humanity intruding upon their space.
When attempts were made to integrate humans into the sprite's cities, the natives fought back fiercely. As the colonization continued, the conflicts escalated, and the two races were brought to the brink of all-out war.
Then, in Earth year 2465 A.D., the leaders of the different races met to negotiate for peace. Finally, an agreement was reached. Humans, sprites, and Anthros (the nickname of the colony world inhabitants, based upon the anthropomorphic animals of yore) would live together as equals. As a symbol of the agreement, the existing law-enforcement agencies of all three races were condensed into a single organization, given the name of a sprite organization famous for keeping the peace--the Guardians. Thus began a new age of peace for all peoples.
That's the official explanation, anyway.]
The reality of the situation is a far cry from the "golden age" they tell about. The humans came and forced the sprites and Anthros out of their naitive lands, and then tried to force their own system of beliefs and laws upon them.
In theory, all the races are equal under the new legislation; in practice, almost nothing has changed. Sprites and Anthros are still denied the most basic rights that humans are given. Most humans treat the other races like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoe, persona non grata. The non-humans aren't exactly fond of humankind, either. The new Guardian organization has attempted to help matters a bit, but now, a generation after the legislation was passed, things are little better than they were before.
It seems that only one group of people has truly been able to accept all the races as equals--a group that is not exactly held in the highest respect.
Having always been a "take-all-comers" organization, the hackers adjusted to the colonization easily, and accepted members of all the races into their ranks. Certain groups of hackers set up Sanctuaries--safe havens where sprites, Anthros, and humans could truly live as equals, without any interference from the authorities. These Sanctuaries are constantly under seige by Earth forces, but they manage to eke out a living just the same.
And now, these hackers, working from hidden bases strewn throughout the Net, have dedicated themselves to a future where all people can truly live together in peace.
Or at least that's the plan.
The adventure begins...