In the far-future setting of V1 Interactive’s Disintegration, humanity is circling the drain. Forced to transplant themselves out of these fleshy bodies we all know and love into robotic alloy armatures in order to survive a worldwide epidemic that has decimated the global population, you’d think that would be its biggest problem. Well, it’s not.It’s been decades since this process of Integration was first discovered, generations even, and in that time there’s a common theme amongst those who made the switch — they want to return to their bodies. Integration was to be a temporary solution, just something to help humanity get by until a cure was found, but as time marches on, the possibility of reversal is seeming more myth than reality. In that disillusionment, the Rayonne rose to power. Twisting the once noble idea of using technology to better humanity, this militaristic faction of Integrated preach post-humanism. To the Rayonne, technology’s the answer, humanity is the problem. Anyone who won’t willingly integrate are hunted, captured, and reconditioned to… see things their way. Often this means becoming a mindless shock trooper in the massive civil war raging all over the world, or worse.
To the Rayonne, individuality is something to be stamped out. In their perfect world, the planet is inherited by black-clad Integrated that serve these greater post-human ideals, no longer hampered by the burden of free thought.
And so they hunt humans and free-thinking Integrated, secure in their absolutely massive floating fortress ships called Iron Clouds. In a way, it’s symbolic. These Iron Clouds themselves represent not just the incredible might of the Rayonne, but their disdain for humanity. They don’t want to be with the primates that live on the ground. As twisted as it sounds, it makes sense in a distorted, pragmatic way. We’re fleshly and frail, they are not. We can transmit and pass disease, they don’t. To the Rayonne, humans are a flawed origin story. And so they are literally elevated above what they see as a lesser species.
The Dog of War
But for as perfectly sterile and uniform the Rayonne appear to be, they’re in the business of hunting humans. And as the saying goes, it takes one to know one.
Which brings us to the Disintegration’s chief antagonist, the Rayonne commander known as Black Shuck. In folklore, The Black Shuck was a demonic black dog that would prowl the countryside, stalking and killing and generally being a terribly bad omen. It’s a fitting name for this particular commander because due to some earlier mishaps, Black Shuck has fallen out of favor with the Rayonne leadership. He’s been relegated to the old, stagnant battlefields of North America and tasked with hunting down and eliminating the dwindling resistance while the real war is raged on other continents.
Suffice it to say, Black Shuck sees this as a slight, but he’s uniquely suited to the task since he’s a free thinker and not as indoctrinated as the rest of the Rayonne. He can still think like a human. He’s manipulative and relies on tricks, capturing outlaws and using them to lead him to more valuable pockets of the resistance. In this role, Shuck represents the dirty work that’s beneath the proper Rayonne forces, and so he operates as a sort of Gestapo.
Black Shuck is devious in his ways. And though he’s equipped with jet-black angular armor and a pair of sharpened claws, it’s his Hannibal Lecter-like menacing calmness that’s so off-putting. And now that he’s been pulled out to the middle of nowhere as far, as he’s concerned, he sees cleaning up the rest of the human resistance as his one shot to get back in favor with the Rayonne.
But that’s also what makes Black Shuck so interesting. He still relies on his own human cleverness which makes him more than a one-dimensional, robotic menace. He’s got a foot in both camps essentially. His ideals align with that post-humanist regime, but he’s not afraid to think or act like his enemy.
The Ties That Bind
But there’s another knot in this story. Disintegration tells the tale of protagonist Romer Shoal who leads a small band of free-thinking outlaws in North America with the hope of uniting the resistance and, ultimately, the common goal most free-thinking integrated pursue, getting their bodies back. However, Romer and Black Shuck share a history.
Romer actually used to work with Shuck, or for him, as a kind of repo man in the days when Romer was a little conflicted with himself and what had become of his celebrity. He used to be something of a host for a Top Gear-style automotive show centered around Gravcycles — the dangerous, single-seat flying vehicles that are at the core of Disintegration — and everything that was cool about them.
When Romer became integrated he thought it was a kind of publicity stunt at first when integration was optional. But then everything started going south around the world. His notoriety and fame plummeted and he ended up doing whatever he could to make ends meet.
Shuck who wasn’t a commander of the Rayonne forces at that time but Romer was capturing gravcycles for him because they were becoming outlawed by the rising Rayonne forces. Romer would go take them and he’d sell them on the black market to the resistance forces. But Romer slipped up, got caught, and Black Shuck imprisoned him. Fortunately for Romer, he caught a break and escaped, which brings us to the beginning of Disintegration’s playable story.
So now there’s a personal relationship between the two of them and Romer’s glad to be free at this moment. But the trajectory Romer and his group of outlaws are on has put him on a collision course back toward Black Shuck. And he’s understandably reluctant to cross paths again.