It can be difficult for those of us fortunate enough to live in the Union to follow the progress of the ongoing conflict between the Regime and the Pantheon. Several difficulties exist which seem to lead, with relentless regularity, to misapprehensions. This text is an attempt to directly address these errors.
1: The Regime and the Pantheon are fighting over great swathes of territory.
Back before the Ultra crisis commenced a useful way to indicate where one government or another held sway was to use lines on a map. All of the land between X and Y belongs to the nation of so-and-so, etc. That is no longer the case.
In truth, the large stretches of the former United States which we color in the deep red that our cartographers have elected to use in order to represent the Regime’s grasp are predominantly ungoverned in any meaningful way.
The Regime’s actual zone of control is more like a series of islands in a sea of anarchy. They rule only the cities, and exercise very little influence over anything else.
This naturally invites the question of what a city is, in the Pantheon/Regime sense. Why would Ultras be found in one area but not in another? The answer is remarkably simple. A city is any settlement built around a Company facility.
The Regime sets down Company facilities in any area that its leader deems significant, and fights to control the people thus attracted. The Pantheon more or less embraces this model, at least in the Americas.
2: Citizens of the Regime and Citizens of the Pantheon are two distinct groups of people.
This one is perhaps a bit more understandable. We would never dream of bowing to a foreign power (I assure myself), and consequently we model the benighted rubble dwellers unfortunate enough to inhabit the conflict zones after ourselves. This is an error, however.
My sources assure me that the most fervent hope of anyone living near the frontier between the warring powers is that one of them is victorious, and pushes the battle lines away from their environs.
This may seem hard to believe, but recall that the Pantheon and the Regime, at the level where they interact with ordinary people, are surprisingly similar. In either case the people inhabit the bottom rung of a ladder which can only be climbed with the aid of the Process. In either case their welfare will depend on the disposition of the Ultras immediately above them, which is more or less a crapshoot.
My contacts told me stories of a small settlement near Sonora which changed owners 4 times in 2 years. Conversation revealed that the inhabitants were only aware of two of these.
3: Everyone in the cities is always getting killed by Ultras
I’m exaggerating, but not by too much. People act as though the Ultra Powers territory is literally hell on earth. In fact they resembles many other totalitarian states that have come before them.
The sad truth of the matter is that if a hypothetical space alien were to spy on a Union city and then on a city of the Regime the main difference that they would spy would be that ours wouldn’t be a ruin, and that we’d have power, vehicles, etc.
That is to say, there is a strong distinction in terms of setting, but far less of one in terms of the day to day occupations of human existence. Every day does not see a Decimation. Most days the people of the Regime live lives consisting of the same tedium that you would feel if you disabled your NET access and wandered off to life in a pile of rubble.
Ultimately, the best advice I can give anyone seriously interested in our neighbors to the west is this.
Consider carefully the plausibility of what you hear, particularly if it speaks to our own superiority. Information which reaches you has gone through several exchanges, most likely, and each of them had incentive to make us sound better. The truth is always more prosaic than you think.