Okay everyone, thanks for all of your great ideas!
Below is the completed amalgamation of parts of my original origin story mixed in along with ideas from everyone here. I believe everything works together quite nicely now and this is really starting to get its grip. Please let me know what you think and if anything is still missing, in your opinion.
How it all began
It is now the year 5,706. In 2056, the well-established military contractor, the Nanolith Corporation, with their motto, “Building new futures from tiny pieces”, had their second major breakthrough in creating the Nanocolluder Virtual Interface System (or ‘VIS’) in conjunction with Intel.
Possibly the greatest quantum computer yet built to date, this wondrous machine finally allowed large-scale control and manipulation of nanobots on an unprecedented scale.
Nanobots were already becoming accepted at this time due to their obvious medical applications by MicroLife, and Nanolith’s own first product, the AURA (Autonomous Upgradable Reactive Armour), which was adopted by the US Military. So when the VIS was used to freely provide incredible disaster relief from a tsunami later that year, in its instant reconstruction of shelters and clearing of rubble, people only became even friendlier towards this new technology. This was a very smart business move by the company; generating a huge surge of interest and investment.
Of course, as with any advance, there will always be those that wish to use it for unsavoury things. After all, the VIS was not an intelligent machine. It didn’t consider the right and wrong of what it was ordered to do. It just did it. And despite the catastrophic potential of the technology, its newness meant it had no restraints or laws like gun control to bind it. People could buy the interface devices and crates of nanites, and do whatever they wanted to do…
There were some interesting applications to this. Somewhat innocuous ones, like Live Action Roleplayers with too much money on their hands changing themselves into beasts and demons. But also far more terrifying ones, like using nanobots to create new weapons and plagues.
By the time restraints were put into place properly, it was far too late already. A cunning terrorist with a rich benefactor got hold of a crate of nanites and an interface, and had a terrifying idea: if I can make anything with this, can’t I just make an ICBM? A deadly virus for the first world?
A meticulously planned operation over the next year would be the start of the downfall of humanity.
An ‘accident’ occurred in a lab in midst of London, infecting the water-supply and the Thames. In just a handful of hours, half of the city died from a super-plague that warped their flesh and made them choke on their own blood. Those that were not mercifully killed instantly become enraged beasts that added fuel to the fire, tearing things apart in their pain and madness. The underground collapsed, parliament was set on fire due to a riot. But it didn’t end there. Shortly afterwards; an American submarine launched a missile at London. It was nuclear.
Despite shocked protests from the Pentagon and The White House, nobody could deny that the missile came from an American sub that was on the edge of British waters. The sub was quickly sunk by a nearby British Destroyer, and divers confirmed its allegiance. The provisional British government, rallied on by its outraged people, gave the order that evening to launch a Trident VI. The next morning, San Francisco was wiped from the map.
Needless to say, nuclear wars very rarely stop with a single savage strike from both sides. Within the next six months, the earth became a hellish nuclear wasteland.
The Survivors in the Storms
Meanwhile, the shocked people of the nearly forgotten James Watson lunar colony looked on. The winds, rain, storms and devastation that wracked the Earth meant that it seemed as though nothing had survived (ala Millenium 2.2). Of course, that was nearly true.
Some people, reacting to the first of the strikes quickly, retreated to a repurposed underground shelter in Siberia. They would survive by sealing off the world underground, and would go on to be the source of the Engi race.
The crews of the three newest advanced US Navy Battlecruisers, with their own onboard Fusion Reactors and limited Electromagnetic plating survived as well, rescuing civilian ships and people from coastal settlements as the world broke down in chaos. They would go on to become the Great Migrant Fleet of the Usnay.
Furious dust storms laced with nuclear fallout ravaged the planet for over a hundred years following this. During that time, the lunar colonists hardened their hearts and toiled away, ever hoping to create a way to re-terraform the Earth. They felt themselves fortunate at their recent private investment that led them to have their own hydroponics and fusion reactor, without which they could never survive without the Earth’s assistance.
The Dark Ages
When the storms stopped a century later, the remainders of the land were inhabited by foul and vicious creatures that were the ones able to survive. Miraculously, some surface humans did live on, but most were mutated by the radiation. Little did they know at the time, these survivals were entirely at the assistance of the remaining nanobots of the VIS, which had been unleashed upon the world en-masse by one of their original creators with a single command ‘Preserve as much life as you can!’. The nanobots truly, heroically tried their best to meet that demand, preserving life without being able to consider the consequences of such a poorly worded order. These ‘survivors’ would become the demons of the Usnay legends.
The Usnay, now the third generation of those original crews, were faced with the decision of braving the land once more. But it was now populated by vicious creatures and mutants and still replete with nuclear radiation, so they chose to instead stay within their ships forevermore, barring occasional missions to obtain metal scrap and other supplies. Where safer, after all?
The people of the Siberian shelter eventually forgot they ever came from the surface except in some forgotten legends. They became partially adapted to the dark; and over time, terrified of the prospect of the surface. Their leaders, pressed for space for all the people, agreed to expand further underground, starting the legacy of the warrens of the Engi that persist to this day. Their underground hydroponics supplied their diet, most notably via the Armillaria Superior, a hardy genetically engineered mushroom species made to taste like honey and grow upside down on cavern roofs to giant sizes in the soft rock conditions, consuming the dead tree roots above.
Due to politics on the moon, and a lack of ability to expand due to food, development of the Terraformer was slow. Occasional missions back to the home world for samples to aid the process was met with the demons, and the third and fourth generation Lunarians abandoned the project as hopeless. (by this point the Usnay ran radio silent; whilst the Engi had been cut off completely). Only a thousand years later did a lunar leader finally restart the project, because living space on the moon was difficult at the best of times and it would be in their best interest anyway to terraform the moon itself even if the Earth was a lost cause.
The Fall of Heaven
So the Dark Ages passed. Much knowledge was lost. It took the Lunarians, who now called themselves the Ruto, another thousand years to figure out the process of terraforming; the breakthrough finally occurring when a bored programmer came across ancient records for the VIS: this was the answer- provide energy to the dead nanobot facility and use their capability to restore the planet. Had the Ruto historians of known the truth, they might almost laughed at the irony of this plan, since the VIS had technically been the cause of the apocalypse and the demons in the first place.
Most Ruto of this time had become of a religion that shunned un-necessary technology. Their goal became to recreate the earth and then all move there and start afresh without the old tools of man that caused this in the first place.
So they built a small fleet of ‘Angel’ class attack shuttles, and carpet bombed the remaining surface demons into oblivion. Some of the remaining Usnay tech-priests noticed but were too shocked to consider shooting down the new arrivals, considering that they were combating the demons, especially considering the Genesis device that was dropped shortly afterwards in what used to be Central Germany. The VIS roared back into life from its previous sleep mode. Dead nanobots across the globe leapt to life in rebuilding the wasteland.
There was still a slight problem, though. True, the VIS, given this large energy infusion and a massive firmware update, could indeed fix the world. But the thing was, it had been a thousand years since anyone had seen the Earth. What had it looked like? What was is supposed to look like? There were records, yes, but most were lost or incomplete. And many… guesses were made…
In the space of a month, a ripple of transformation smashed across the world. Previously ash-covered lands became lush again. The earth was certainly very different from what the Ruto remembered. But at least it was earth again. They kept their promises. They sunk the ‘Angels’ into the sea, and dropped their colony ship, the Argo, right near the landing spot of the genesis device, where a great tree had begun to grow. They didn’t actually expect the tree to grow so rapidly, though. It actually engulfed their ship and they were forced out.
Some of them sailed in ships of wood to meet the Usnay, and the Engi took the rumbles on the surface to be a sign from a prophecy, and emerged themselves into their promised land.
And so we have the world as it exists today.