Long long ago, in the before time, there was technology, and it was good. Feats of engineering and electronics allowed the world, and all of the people in it, to flourish. In these days, magic was but a rumor, a story told by the old folk to enthrall the children and get them to sit quietly, or to be faked with technology in venues of entertainment. However, within the shadows of the world, there were people who knew and understood magic and hungered to make it more powerful.
The magic hungered, too. And it was the combination of magic’s own desire to grow and change, and humanity’s constant need to control, and their thirst for power, that would destroy the world of the past.
And bring about a new world, reborn in clockwork and fire.
It started simple enough, a woman named Corinna gathered followers over a span of decades. She claimed that not only had she studied magic and learned how to control it, but it spoke to her. She traveled the world, never staying in any place longer than she needed to scour libraries and used bookstores for forgotten tomes and to hold court with her growing followers. It culminated with a week long retreat—comprised of her favorites and those with the strongest auras—where they fasted, chanted, and held court under the moon in an effort to increase contact with the consciousness within the magic and grow its power. The whole group was found dead a week later, and the news largely reported it as a cult-suicide.
About the same time, news of a computer virus spread like a wildfire, morphing the computers in its wake. The machines seemed to take on a life of their own and the assumption was there was a complex AI behind it. As the white hat hackers, security experts, and other programmers investigated, they could find no trace of code that could possibly explain what was happening. It soon spread from the personal computers into government run systems for infrastructure and services, as well as retail, manufacturing, and private contractors. It only took about six months for it to reach every last computer in the world, and by then it was clear that it wasn’t a computer virus—it affected computers with no remote access and by the end it didn’t even wait for the machines to boot into their operating system before affecting its change.
In what felt like overnight, the world had the technological rug pulled out from under it.
Out of need, people quickly found that whatever this was, it didn’t affect mechanical things: clockwork, steam and combustion engines, and manual labor soon became the force behind day to day life. Those with skills, knowledge, and resources in these areas rose to the top of society, and those who’d worked with computers and technology before the fall, as well as those who’d been afforded a life of leisure, soon found themselves in a position of either learning manual labor to become useful, or perishing.
Many died. The hardest hit were those in hospitals as care providers struggled to meet care needs without the assistance that technology had provided. Next were those dependent on pharmaceuticals for daily quality of life care, as the pharmaceutical companies struggled to meet demand without the computers and automation that had carried so much of their output.
The first indicator of change had happened quite by accident. A nurse was on her rounds in Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, preparing to do a blood draw on a patient with diabetes for a glucose test, and looked to the electronic monitor that was still lying on the bedside table from before the computer crash. Things had been so chaotic trying to minimize the loss of life as much as possible, no one had the time to clear away all the old equipment that no longer worked. As she was about to look away from the device and get to the task at hand, she swore she saw the screen come to life—almost as if it was lighting up even though that model didn’t have a back light. She reached for it, curious, and it chirped at her happily. Almost like a bird or animal pleased to be given attention by its owner.
Soon after the glucose monitor incident at Ochsner, reports of similar happenings started to travel around the globe. The electronics only worked for certain people, and with time some people with more patience could learn from those who had the natural spark how to bring the devices to life. As word traveled across what communication networks had been cobbled together in the wake of the computer crash, classes were organized where those with the natural talents worked together with people with backgrounds in education in order to teach others. The new technological elite were forged from this.