The world of RADS
To the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, the monsters known as demons are almost entirely unknown, the easily dismissed and forgotten subjects of folk legend and campfire tale. This is due to the concerted and ongoing efforts of government agencies to hide the horrifying reality of our world from the masses, for the public’s protection—and to avoid retribution for their own parts in the atrocities wrought by demonkind.
What follows are the true accounts of the discovery of the radioactive ‘demon’; of the process by which they are created; of the governmental organisations who researched, developed and capitalised on their existence for their own ends; and of the disparate do-gooders who work to thwart their efforts.
While the following is fictitious, it draws on real-life elements and takes influence from real activities conducted by the USA and USSR between the Second World War and the ‘present day’ of the game’s setting in 1979. The organisations and people referenced are real and many civilians were genuinely subject to dangerous experiments by government-backed scientists without their knowledge or consent.
The Trinity test marked humanity’s first stride into the Atomic Era. On the 16th day in July, 1945, the team from Los Alamos Laboratories detonated the first atomic bomb at White Sands Missile Range, deep in the barren desert of New Mexico.
When the blast went off, it took 40 seconds for the shock wave to reach the observers, 20 miles away from the impact site. In those moments, they saw the world lit up with hues of gold and purple, red and green, and finally a searing white. The mushroom cloud swelled 7.5 miles high. The air was hot as an oven when the wave hit. The men observing the event at Compania Hill—scientists, politicians, soldiers—cheered in jubilation.
The next day, one of the Los Alamos junior researchers sent to inspect the bomb site complained of headaches, dizziness and fatigue. He was prescribed aspirin and bed rest. He stayed in bed for two further days. What left the hospital room on July 19th was no longer a human being.
It was Robert J. Oppenheimer who first used the name ‘demon’ to describe what emerged from the wreckage of that man. Oppenheimer set up a team at Sandia National Laboratories to investigate the process, named the Y Process, after the Y Project at Los Alamos repsonsible for that first bomb.
In the weeks that followed his transformation, the team concluded that the transformation had occurred because the subject had been bombarded with gamma radiation during his time at the test site. However, experiments exposing other human test subjects to comparable amounts of radiation failed to reproduce the effect.
When the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Sandia Labs team watched as closely as any of their colleagues, not simply to observe the awful power of the atom, but for further instances of the transformation.
In the devastation of Japan’s twin bombings, confused and contradictory accounts of demonic creatures wreaking havoc on their surroundings were reported, with one central theme: all of them took place around photography processing shops. Armed with this new information, the scientists at Sandia Labs narrowed down their investigations, eventually revealing the culprit.
Hydroquinone is a naturally occurring substance produced by select species of insect, shrub, fungi and mammal, most commonly used as a developing agent for black and white film. On that fateful day following the Trinity test, the doomed researcher had been selected to document the site because of his passion for and skill in photography.
The combination of gamma radiation and traces of concentrated hydroquinone in the body was the necessary cocktail for a person to become a demon. With this mystery solved, the scientists at Sandia Labs were now able to replicate the process and uncover the mysteries of the radioactive monsters.
The Y Process
The Y Process comprises three progressive phases of transformation. In the first instance, subjects lose their inhibitions as though permanently drunk. Their existing characteristics are warped and exaggerated, with their latent unacceptable impulses coming to the fore and defining their behaviour. At Phase 1, changes will reverse if exposure to radiation ceases.
As the mutation progresses to a second phase, subjects become paranoid and hostile. Higher cognitive faculties swiftly diminish, with subjects first losing their self-control, followed by their ability to communicate complex ideas or speak full sentences. Biological changes become more pronounced, exceeding normal human capabilities in some areas while atrophying in others. Throughout Phase 2, the change is reversible if exposure ceases and the individual is treated by regular ingestion of a weak solution of sodium hydroxide (lye), which acts to neutralise the acidic hydroquinone, over the course of several days.
In the final phase, the creature is unrecognisable as a human and has become a demon. Demons show extreme variance in their physical appearance and each one may have unique physiological or paranormal capabilities, but they all possess inhuman strength and exhibit extremely violent tendencies. While they completely lose the power of speech, however, demons seem capable of strategic planning, if only to the extent that doing so advances their repugnant goals of violence. By Phase 3, all changes are irreversible.
Phase 3 also poses an additional threat: upon entering the final phase of the demonic transformation, a demon begins to emit the same kind of gamma radiation which initiated the Y Process transformation. Any human beings who are wounded by or even exposed to a Phase 3 demon for a sufficiently long time period will begin to undergo the Y Process themselves if they come into contact with hydroquinone. In other words, in Phase 3, demons begin to reproduce.
In 1947, Sandia Labs was taken over by the newly established Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Based on the above findings about the nature of the Y Process, they pursued two avenues of research: transforming people into demons as a way of turning a citizen of an enemy state into a source of chaos, and controlling the mutated monsters to produce super soldiers with enhanced abilities. What they discovered was something altogether more incredible.
A relatively tiny fraction of people (estimated to be anywhere between 0.1% and 0.01% of the general population) do not respond to hydroquinone and gamma radiation with the Y Process. Instead, they experience a period of illness characterised by nausea, fever and delirium. Once the illness subsides these uncommon individuals, humanity intact, find themselves in possession of near-miraculous paranormal abilities.
These radioactively-empowered people were nicknamed Rads by the AFSWP team. Despite extensive research, to this day there are no known genetic or environmental signals which would identify a person as having the potential to gain such powers. It seemed that the only real way to find and activate a Rad would be to initiate the Y Process and hope for the best.
The first Rad discovered was subject to countless tests and experiments, ultimately dying in the process. The hunt was now on to create more Rads who could be recruited and trained up as secret agents in service of the United States government.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had been hard at work conducting parallel research into nuclear technology. Their own weapon test in 1949 , First Lighting, had caused a similar mutant transformation to Trinity, and Russian scientists had latched onto the potential military applications quickly. It remains unknown when the first Soviet Rad came into existence, but by 1953, the US had gained conclusive evidence that a number of Rads were acting on behalf of the USSR, under command of the All-Soviet Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, codenamed Volga Office.
In 1959, AFSWP became the Defence Atomic Support Agency. By this time, a select group of Rads had been successfully activated and brought onboard as covert operatives, dispatched on international espionage missions as well as being deployed on US soil to fight demonic threats at home.
Not every Rad who was activated under AFSWP/DASA was successfully onboarded as an Agent. Some, activated during large-scale civilian tests, were overlooked in the catchment process; others were deemed unsuited to military or covert work and were discharged. Still more Rads were created as a side-effect of demonic activity, or as a result of Soviet attacks on American soil. For various reasons, by the mid 1960s, there were an increasing number of unaligned Rads within the general population.
The Free Rads
Some time in the mid-1960s, a senior Agent working for DASA began to notice a strange trend. Given the extremely low prevalence of Rads among the general population, an unusually high proportion of demonic attacks resulted in the activation of new Rads. Conducting some discreet experiments, she came to a simple conclusion. For some reason, demons were especially drawn to attack people who had the potential to gain Powers through gamma exposure.
Rather than take this information to her superiors, the Agent continued to conduct her own investigation, this time turning her attention to DASA itself. Before long, her growing suspicion was proven horribly correct: not all of the demon attacks on US soil were the result of Volga Office attempting to spark chaos and fear in US citizens. In fact, many of the monsters she’d been sent to dispatch had been intentionally created and let loose by DASA in order to hunt out potential recruits.
In response to her discovery, the nameless Agent in question used her security clearance and network of contacts to track down as many ex-Agent or civilian Rads as she could, bringing them together to form a new organisation. The Free Rads were founded in 1967, with the mission to use their powers to protect civilians from demons and government agencies alike, and fight demons wherever they appeared.
The Free Rads based its organisational structure closely off other dissident groups of the time, imitating the semi-independent cell structure used by the US Communist Party and the Mattachine Society. Most cells knew nothing concrete about the wider organisation and would rely on a single anonymous contact to give them information and orders.
In 1971, DASA became the Defense Nuclear Agency. DASA’s Agents were all retired from active duty, with many deemed to be potential security risks ‘disappeared’ by their superiors. The message put out among those in the know was that demon-based warfare had been outlawed at the highest levels and research into the Y Process abandoned, but the Free Rads’ leadership remained rightfully sceptical. Up to this point, the Free Rads had maintained informants within DASA, but with the forcible ousting of all but a select few loyalists from DNA, their lines of intelligence had been broken.
In subsequent years, demon attacks on US soil continued. Through some means never disclosed to the wider organisation, the Free Rads acquired the ability to identify many of these attacks at very short notice, sometimes even pre-empting them entirely—but while this led to a substantial improvement in their ability to mitigate the damage, this was offset by a worrying trend that emerged towards the latter half of the 1970s.
More and more demons had been observed exhibiting signs of intelligence and strategic thought, with some even retaining some humanlike features while still boasting the strength of a full Phase 3. The origins of these Phase 2.5 demons was unknown, with theories pointing fingers at DNA, Volga Office, or even a more fundamental shift in the planet’s background radiation levels, but the wider implications were obvious: the fight against demonkind was only going to get worse.
- 1945 July 16: The Atomic Era starts with the Trinity Test. July 19: The first radioactive demon manifests. September: Robert J. Oppenheimer creates a team at Sandia National Laboratories, headed by Dr Jerrold R Zacharias, to investigate ‘The Y Process’, the mechanism by which exposure to gamma radiation produces demons.
- 1946 The other factor in the Y Process, exposure to hydroquinone, is discovered and the three phases of demon transition are codified. The first Rad is activated.
- 1947 Armed Forces Special Weapons Project is formed out of Sandia National Labs. AFSWP begins testing the Y Process on US citizens. The same year, the USSR establishes the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF), codenamed Volga Office. Volga Office will operate out of a number of different ‘closed towns’ across the USSR throughout its existence, which will come to be known as the Atomgrads.
- 1952 Volga Office begins utilising Rads as secret agents for covert operations in US and allied territories.
- 1959 AFSWP is replaced by Defense Atomic Support Agency. Focus shifts to creating Rads and using them as secret agents, both to fight demonic incidents on US soil, and as covert operatives for foreign espionage.
- 1967 The Free Rads are formed.
- 1971 DASA becomes the Defense Nuclear Agency. Work on Rads is supposedly terminated.
- 1976 The first ‘Phase 2.5’ demons are observed, exhibiting the limited intelligence and self-control of a Phase 2 but with almost all the strength and viciousness of a completely transformed Phase 3.
- 1979 The present day.
The 1950s were characterised by unprecedented economic growth and technological advancement, and the '60s followed with sweeping liberalisation and progressive social change. The space race was won, and it felt like we could do anything. Then the 1970s happened.
The world's major economic powers, the USA and the USSR, are in a protracted Cold War over ideological and economic differences. While an official détente has been in place since 1969, the whole planet continues to live live under the threat of nuclear holocaust and paranoia about spies, sabotage and subterfuge is commonplace.
Over half the world's population live under repressive dictatorships, the remnants of colonialism and the victims of globalisation. Frequent and costly proxy wars are fought in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The Vietnam War is one of many unpopular conflicts driven more by the political and economic interests of an elite few than the safety of the American people.
Economic 'stagflation' and successive oil and energy crises have left engagement and trust in government and social institutions lower than they have been in decades, with labour strikes routinely paralyzing infrastructure. Decades of post-war consensus between major political parties is coming to an end as the Republicans withdraw support for socially progressive welfare reforms in favour of new-fangled neoliberal economics.
The widespread social changes in the '60s led to increased rights for women and minorities, but a conservative backlash is underway. The civil rights movement in the USA and international second-wave feminist movement have both begun to fracture as increasingly diverse viewpoints and directions lead to infighting—and even violence. Traditional community structures are sliding out of relevance with little to replace them and culture is focusing more on individuality expressed through consumerism. Society is increasingly atomised, self-interested, selfish.
In short, the world looks like a bit of a shitshow. Nobody trusts anybody, everything seems to be falling apart… and demon attacks are on the rise again. Maybe the government doesn’t know, maybe they don’t care, or maybe they’re the ones behind it. It’s up to the Free Rads to find out, and protect the world from a very hostile takeover.