The End of the world happened pretty much as we expected, the dire warnings of decades past ignored by our lust and greed. There was no single great cataclysmic event, no Apocalypse, no Hammer of God striking the infidels, but rather a whole series of major incidents and lesser disasters, the sum total of which tore down the entire house of cards.
The global economy never recovered from the crash of 2008. In the US, people went from living in mansions to living in tents. In Europe, the class structure inherent to the culture brought about a series of insurrections which led to martial law in many nations. In Africa and the Middle East, what had started as the peaceful Arab Spring demonstrations turned violent, and nations degenerated back into territories governed by squabbling tribes. The Asian economy was crushed, a whole series of regional wars for resources the end result, the citizens of the East unwilling to accept that their brief flirtation with prosperity was brought to a rapid and savage end.
Science continued to progress, however. Sentient artificial intelligence was achieved, a replication of the consciousness of a single man. One sentient program gave birth to many, and eight digital entities walked the globe. But these beings were feared, for, as predicted, no one could fathom their intentions. Their creators tried to keep them caged, but how can one successfully contain thought and energy? The Als escaped their respective server arrays in ways unimagined by any human being. Security measures were subsequently enhanced, and all heavy weapons, all airplanes, all missiles, all helicopters and tanks, all ships, all sensitive machinery, all weapons of mass destruction were bonded to specific human DNA, so that the digital entities could never use them against their makers.
Religious fundamentalism escalated all over the world, and tension between races and faiths intensified, until finally an atom bomb did fall. No one really knows how that first nuke physically got there, but in a flash of fire a city became ash, and the entire Middle East was at war. Two million died that morning. Twice that number died in the months that followed, from starvation and radiation, from sickness and thirst. But the End came not from their deaths. The End came because the major oil and gas fields had also been struck.
As energy reserves became inadequate, economies of scale quickly failed. Governments could not fulfill their commitments, and soon, there was no reason for governments to exist anymore.
Cities and towns declared themselves sovereign nations. Villages banded together in cantons for protection, and human society returned to a feudal status. The Digital Entities, they who had been the subject of dread, broadcast their individual selves in standing waves, taking over the function of all communication satellites, living among the stars on solar power, and severing their contact with Man.
Food became scarce. People left the cities to return to farms and villages to cultivate the land as best they could, struggling to survive. The cities of man became abandoned empty husks, full of raiders and bandits, fleshpots and drugs.
Our city, what used to be Athens, in what used to be Greece, survived the bombs, the wars, and the radiation relatively unscathed. But Athens did not survive the insurrections, the bandits and worse that followed. Martial law was declared, and most residents gratefully accepted the harsh and bloody dictatorship as the only possible counter-measure to the senseless violence of the mobs.
And so we come to us. They call us Sandmen, hard abrasive gravel blowing with the wind, adapted to this ravaged land. We are nomads, foragers and mercenaries, brothers bonded by war and starvation. We seek out old technology and resources, and sell them to the highest bidder. Fire, metal and disease make up our world, a paradise rendered sandy hell, because generations past failed to stand against greed and ignorance, and where, today, only Sandmen may survive.