Tales of a Dark City
Pentex, Incorporated, is a vampire squid. It’s a holding company that buys up both promising new and faltering businesses, bringing them under its wing, corrupting honest business owners and throwing environmental concerns to the wayside. For every scandal or liability suit that sinks a corporation, Pentex has already bought two more and turned them into profit-generating corporate machines. Using the newest technology and every legal loophole available, Pentex is adaptable enough to ride any economic wave.
Its subsidiaries wring every last cent they can from those too stupid to know better or too desperate to care. Billion dollar marketing giants use research and subliminal advertising — born from hidden Pentex labs — to target the consumer’s fears and desires, convincing him that he cannot live without their product… sometimes literally. Protected by a magnitude of laws and the labyrinthine system of the courts and regulatory agencies to shield themselves from direct reprisal, the many heads of Pentex act without fear of any significant consequences. Even if the authorities should bring down one of the group’s constituent corporations, others will only rise up in their place. Those at the top enjoy the ultimate power: lower classes generate their wealth for them, politicians cut taxes for them, and it only requires a fraction of their immense profits to feed the cycle.
And what does Pentex do with all its gains? Work to acquire more. There is never going to be enough profit to sate the greed of the Board of Directors. Every horrible thing Pentex does is done for nothing greater than the pursuit of profit, profit, profit. Pollution is cheaper than going green. Low wages and miserable working conditions reduce labor costs. Buying politicians is just a long-term investment, reaped when the tax breaks and subsidies roll in. The board of directors don’t really care about the damage their company is doing to the rest of the world—as long as their own nests are feathered, the rest of the world can go to Hell.
They may come to regret this when they learn that the end is closer than they think. Their company has been subverted by Avarice, The Realm of Greed, and Mammon, The King of The Golden River, is considering whether it might be more cost-efficient for him to just eliminate the board (literally) and run the company himself…
Bought anything lately? Chances are good that you’ve contributed to Pentex’s bottom line somehow. Pentex is an incestuous soup—crude oil pumped by Endron is made into petroleum, then into plastic at Rainbow incorporated, which is then used to make the toys for Avalon, sold at a Herrick’s or Big Box Mart near you just in time for Christmas. At every point on the production line Pentex makes a profit that feeds back into itself.
- The Board of Directors — Insidiously black-hearted and manipulative to a man (or woman — Pentex is an equal opportunity evil), the upper echelons of Pentex contain some of the most willingly despicable beings to have ever gotten an MBA. Few of the Directors appear in public. The majority lurk within multiple layers of corporate subterfuge deep enough to prevent their names from appearing on any document or electronic file connecting them to Pentex or its subsidiaries. Those that do make themselves known carry with them the talent for making their gross misdeeds out as shrewd business decisions rather than as the vile exaltations of global corruption they truly are. The Directors have not survived for as long as they have by painting themselves as targets. They are, by turns, psychopathic, sadistic, immoral, and hateful people.
Pentex itself is a holding company that does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. There are actually hundreds of smaller corporations, holding companies, and so on tied to Pentex, but these are the most profitable enterprises.
- Ardus Enterprises — Ardus is a waste management disposal service that gives the EPA nightmares. They’re responsible for careless disposal of a wide assortment of toxic materials, including radioactive waste. They spend the least amount of money possible to get rid of the hazardous materials, dumping them near watersheds and suburban communities.
- Americas Security Concerns — ASC is a new venture for Pentex: a foray into the private prison industry. Private prisons operate off one simple premise; they claim it is cheaper to house inmates in their facility than it is for the government to run facilities themselves. And the one ASC manages is a doozy — America’s very first privately owned Supermax prison, Buckner Ridge Penitentiary. After contributing large sums to certain politicians, ASC got permission to open their facility last year, and already they’re happy as clams. Rumors of terrible conditions, forced labor, patenting devices cooked up by incarcerated gadgeteers, and even clandestinely releasing supervillains to serve corporate interests have yet to prompt a review of the facility.
- Autumn Health Management Systems — Autumn is an HMO that manages all over North America, and the company seeks expansion to Europe and Asia. Its health care facilities operate at minimum standards and are generally great places for infestation, pain and suffering. Magadon often uses these facilities to test out new products. Autumn used to manage Hillside Asylum, which is what convinced the higher-ups to get more involved in the private prison industry. Autumn-run hospitals have distressingly high death rates.
- Avalon Incorporated — This toy manufacturer seems harmless enough at first glance, but its products range from gross to destructive. Avalon’s best sellers include Pet Pal, a veterinary kit that subtly provokes cruelty to animals; Nuke ‘Em, the fun family game of global thermonuclear warfare; Action Bill and the Danger Squad, paramilitary agents fighting terrorists around the world on missions that have disturbingly overt racist messages; The Cici line of dolls, which teach young girls that cosmetics, designer clothing, and starvation are the most important contributions to society; and Poopi Suzi, a doll that screams, craps and spits up, until a child tosses the toy against a wall. Some of these toy brands have mindless product-shilling cartoons, direct-to-video movies, and Tellus-made tie-in games. All of Avalon’s toy’s tend to be cheap, which makes them popular among cash-strapped parents needing to get birthday or Christmas presents. Of course, these poorly made cheap toys sometimes incorporate dangerous, lead-filled foreign paints and parts prone to breaking off and posing choking hazards to children and small animals. Countless millions of childish adults grew up on Avalon toys and although now young adults, continue to play Avalon games. Their collectible card games and board games remain very popular among that demographic, as do party games which are often accompanied by King Brewery’s multipacks of beer.
- Big Box Mart — This chain of warehouse-style megamarts has an iron grip on the retail market. It has low prices, all right — it sells generic products made in third world countries and other Pentex products. But the workers are horribly mistreated, under paid and over worked, and when a Big Box Mart moves into a neighborhood it proceeds to drive all the pre-existing local Mom & Pop shops out of business, usually through a combination of price undercutting, bribery, and other shady business practices. it is vociferously anti-union, and has been known to make deals with police departments to have cops sent as strikebreakers to break up protests and rallies.
- Black Dog Game Factory — Once a dinky, back porch operation, Black Dog is now the undisputed leader in churning out pretentious roleplaying games. Favorites include Zombie: The Putrescence, Lycanthrope: The Rapture, Warlock: The Pretension, Pixie: The Delusion, Fiend: The Pacting, and Spectre: The Annihilation. These games extol the virtues of tragic hipness, ultra-violence and the uncoolness of mortals; players tend to wallow in their own angst, whining about the state of their dark souls through their psychopathic antihero characters’ voices. Black Dog hopes to work out a deal with Tellus on marketing game-related software in the near future.
- Circinus Brands — A cigarette and tobacco products company, Circinus appeals to young, hip and trendy smokers. It keeps label warnings to a bare minimum and spends enormous amounts on fashionable advertising campaigns. What Circinus isn’t saying is that its products are highly addictive and ultimately fatal. Circinus Brands enjoys a price break on cigarettes from the Federal Government because it runs a line of anti-smoking PSAs. These PSAs are deliberately overblown, over the top, and so full of obviously false bullshit that rebellious teens figure there must be something the Adults are trying to keep from them and buy packs in droves, turning the PSAs into stealthy commercials.
- Consolidex Worldwide — An international investment firm, Consolidex offers a variety of no-load stock options and mutual funds with a low level of initial purchase. This appeals to the young, inexperienced investor. The company then takes the money and plunges it into other Pentex companies and projects, returning just enough growth to keep investors coming back for more.
- Endron International — Endron, the oldest Pentex corporation, suffered a major blow in the early parts of the Nova boom. Specializing in cheap petroleum, natural gas and
nuclear energy, all of Endron’s products are below minimum standards for emission and octane levels. Safety standards at the refineries and power plants are a joke; worse, the company has been responsible for a number of oil spills and contamination. This lead to a major political scandal when it was discovered that President Bush himself had accepted kickbacks in order to overlook Endron’s corruption. Pentex sacrificed Endon and turned over materials on President Bush to prosecutors in order to keep them from looking at other operations too closely. Though Endron still functions as a company, it is nowhere near the powerhouse it once was, especially after the Hypercombustion engine killed the gas-powered automotive market.
- General Health and Nutrition — GHN is Pentex’s health store chain, and is among the most popular chains in North America. Like all such stores, GHN provides health supplements, from foods to vitamins and other dietary aids. Their products are the best in the business, and their own brand of energy drink, Wolf’s Run, is the most popular in the world. GHN is especially popular with the young and professional athletes. They also stock homeopathic remedies that the staff recommends in place of effective treatments. Some of those remedies go beyond homeopathic sugar pills into the realm of actual poison. Like most Pentex-owned outlets, a lot of other subsidiaries market through GHN, with Magadon and Young & Smith being the largest suppliers.
- Globe Broadcasting Network — One of the corporation’s recent acquisitions is GBN. Already the home of far-right talking heads with a questionable relation to actual news, under Pentex’s direction it’s gotten worse. GBN uses questionable legal victories to generate heavily spun “news” broadcasts, generating bogus headlines from nothing at all. Their viewers, enthralled by the talking heads, embrace the network’s sound bites as ideological truths, and push them on their neighbors and children. Those same kids grow up inured to hatred and discrimination, caught in the same cycles as everyone else. Their hopes are ground in the gears and GBN’s taint corrodes the heart of the machine that powers a country. Political factions turn on each other and their voters. All the while, the true puppet masters watch their marionettes dance on strings of their own devising. Pentex counts its true profits not just in terms of monetary gain, but also in the roads to Hell people pave with intentions both good and bad.
- Good House International — Good House manufactures paper products of all kinds, from cheap notebooks to flimsy baby wipes. They are a major source of deforestation, particularly in Canada and the Amazon. Good House is the second oldest company in Pentex and has a widespread market, including other Pentex subsidiaries.
- Hallahan Fishing Corporation — The business behind the Jolly Cap’n Hallahan seafood chain, Hallahan floods the seafood market with its products, which come at the cost of illegal whaling and fishing. The company doesn’t care that hundreds of dolphins die in its tuna nets; the products are much cheaper than albacore to produce. Hallahan has its own small restaurant chain and supplies O’Tolley’s as well. Most consumers have no idea of the company’s practices; a successful ad campaign, featuring their mascot Jolly Cap’n Bill Hallahan, is quite misleading.
- Harold & Harold Mining, Incorporated — This company mines all sorts of materials, such as coal, copper, lead, zinc and uranium. Strip mining is preferable, since it’s low-cost and does a nice job of tearing up the landscape. Harold and Harold is slated for expansion into South Africa as soon as tensions in the region settle down.
- Herculean Firearms Incorporated — If you’ve been shot recently, it was probably with a Herculean Firearm. Herculean Firearms manufactures all types of handguns and ammunition, including semiautomatic weapons. The company’s real strength is in its powerful PAC and lobby; every year, they manage to convince more and more politicians to ignore the issue of gun control. Herculean’s arms are cheap, too; just about any young criminal can find one to buy or steal.
- Herrick’s — One of Pentex’s most incestuous businesses, Herrick’s is a US grocery and retail chain. Like Big Box Mart, it’s the perfect outlet for other Pentex corporations’ products. Here, Avalon, Circinus, King, Rainbow, Vesuvius, and Young & Smith all find an easy way to make lots of money. Because of this cooperation, Herrick’s is able to undersell many other retail chains, raking in enormous profits.
- King Breweries and Distilleries — King Breweries is notorious in the business world for the ruthless business practices of the eponymous owning family, and because underage drinkers favor its cheap products. While King Distilleries spends millions every year on alcohol-awareness advertisements and programs to oppose minors drinking, in truth the company works hard to attract teenagers to booze. Much like Circinus does with tobacco, King Breweries and Distilleries is doing an admirable job of always keeping alcohol “cool and hip.” Ads show only beautiful people sipping their drinks, always in trendy settings. King escapes the consequences of its actions through the unbreakable power of money, served with a foaming glass of deceit. The company backs political candidates who fight against regulations that would hurt King. In order to keep their pockets lined with gold, these politicians fight endlessly in Washington on behalf of their backers, interfering with investigations and running character assassinations campaigns to discredit environmentalists and whistleblowers. Such actions coincide with the extreme conservatives’ own anti-environmental agenda, but King also pays very well in money and favors, prompting politicians to go that extra mile.
- Magadon, Incorporated — In the age of wonders that is the twenty-first century, Magadon stands at the top of scientific progress. The pharmaceutical giant is the industry leader in health products and medical advancements for the past decade. It gives the public what they want: diet pills, energy supplements and cosmetic implants. It also produces chemicals necessary for Dr. Mortos’ Biorestorative Formula, the Jokzerz’ supply of “party pills,” a host of under-the-counter recreational drugs, and is the world’s second-largest producer of illegal Augmentations. Many of Magadon’s chemicals find their way into other Pentex products, encouraging addiction.
- Nastrum Enterprises — Nastrum produces cheap weapons of mass destruction, including missiles, explosives and stealth aircraft. They’ll sell their products to anyone, a fact kept top secret from prying eyes in the US government. Nastrum is more than willing to supply terrorists; they’ve also sold weapons to both sides of various conflicts. The more money, the better!
- Omni Television — A syndicated network, Omni produces a number of mind-rotting television shows, such as Knights of Angst, about chic high school girls who fight monsters of the week; MSG Express, a cooking program; Monday Mega-Massacre, the XWF‘s flagship weekly show; and Concrete Dreams, a brutal, live action cop drama. Omni’s commercials, showing a lot of fellow subsidiaries’ products, are subliminal advertising. Omni’s latest hit breakthrough series, American Hero, is a reality show pitting a number of vapid and unstable Abnormals against each other in “contests” to see who will be the most shameless backstabber as they compete for a “guest spot” on The Patriot Society’s roster.
- O’Tolly’s, The Family Place — Batter-dipped and double-fried, that’s OTolley’s, the Family Place. One of the largest fast food chains in the world, O’Tolley’s has thousands of locations all across the globe specializing in the most greasy, fat-filled food imaginable. When times are tough, people want cheap food, and the O’Tolley’s value menu is as cheap as it gets. O’Tolley’s ads do a good job of promoting a wholesome family atmosphere; what they don’t show is that their foods cause obesity, heart disease, and cancer, the majority of their workers suffer from crippling depression and desperation for trying to survive on low pay (at least until the day they snap and bring a handgun in to work), and their farms and plants pollute the soil and air on an unimaginable scale. Eating at OTolley’s is a great way to gain 20 pounds or shred your gall bladder. Since such health hazards don’t show up for days or weeks after eating at OTolley’s, consumers don’t realize the ultimate source of their sickness. Want fries with that?
- Rainbow Incorporated — This company produces a variety of plastic and rubber products, from sandwich baggies to tires. Moreover, they have a powerful lobby and media campaign that praises the value of plastics to consumers. Expansion into Africa and Asia will be vital to Rainbow’s continued growth, as labor costs are rising in North America.
- Sunburst Computers — Sunburst Computers has become one of the largest computer manufacturers in the world. Sunburst hardware looks sleek, and CPUs come packed with attractive and noisy games, thanks to Tellus Enterprises. The cost is well below competitors; anybody can buy a Sunburst computer. Sunburst also markets tablets and smart phones. The SunPad is a two-hundred-dollar marvel of cutting-edge information technology. It also secretly records everything the user does, even with “private browsing” active. When the time is right, it reveals that information to the worst possible people, including friends, family, and the authorities — wherever the data will cause the most harm. The Solaris smartphone, designed with both form and function in mind, is easily the best-looking smartphone available. It’s built to exacting specifications, expensive to buy, and imported exclusively from the Third World factories where workers will never see the light of day again.
- Tellus Enterprises — Tellus enjoys worldwide recognition as a leading videogame developer. Tellus gained popularity during the videogame boom of the late 1980s, both for the debut of their proprietary console, the Typhoon, and their games, always at the forefront of technological achievement and graphic content. Tellus games are incredibly gory, violent, and addictive — their venerable Biological Warfare series is the frequent target of moral guardians, Eden Online has actual support groups dedicated to helping players take a break, and even their wide-open sandbox game The Clones delivers abusive relationships and sudden outbreaks of disease and disaster on the towns players create to keep them on their toes.
- Vesuvius Press — Vesuvius publishes a wide range of books, comics and periodicals, as well as selling web advertising; advertisers, not surprisingly, include a lot of other Pentex companies. The publisher’s most important function is placating the public’s fears about environmental hazards and issues like gun control and the state of global economics. The comic book lines, many of them “reality comics” based on popular Abnormals, appeal to the worst instincts of teens and have been linked to violent crimes.
- Young & Smith, Incorporated — Behind Sunburst and Magadon, Young & Smith is the third largest Pentex subsidiary. This company produces a wide variety of foods and personal care products, all of which are unsanitary and chock full of preservatives. Even the packaging, usually obtained from Good House or Rainbow, is tainted. Chances are every family has some kind of product from Young & Smith on its shelves.
Allies & Enemies
- Dark-Hawke Industries — While Pentex has a stranglehold on consumer goods, one thing they don’t have is a lot of military contracts. And the Board of Directors want them. They want them so bad they can taste them. And the major thing standing in their way is Dark-Hawke Industries. Dark-Hawke is the world leader in cybernetic and genetic augmentation, and they have a stranglehold on the Avatar Energy boom (which has been responsible for Endron bleeding money). Several Pentex subsidiaries compete with Dark-Hawke, either directly or indirectly. Pentex has been known to launch corporate espionage raids against Dark-Hawke as much out of pure jealousy as a desire to enter and taint a new market. Magadon’s Supersoldier program lag years behind Dark-Hawke, and Pentex has no cyberware division at all. The Triton Foundation produces actual medicines that help people. The Board of Directors would just LOVE to see Dark-Hawke take a dive.
- The Federal Government — Pentex money greases the wheels of Washington. Political Power is quite important for Pentex — the more regulations they can get slashed and the bigger tax cuts they can squeeze out of their bought and paid-for stooges, the greater their profit margin. That said, the American government isn’t always cozy with Pentex, and the mega-corp needs to hide some of its nastier business practices from the few Federal Agencies and News Organizations that aren’t completely captured. Pentex still remembers the Endron Scandal that killed a presidency, cost them billions in lost revenue, and allowed other energy technologies to permanently cripple their once-mighty giant. It will never happen again, not if the Board of Directors can prevent it, which is why Pentex is ruthless when plugging leaks.
- Zero Latitude — On the other side of the legal fence is the eco-terrorist group Zero Latitude. Zero Latitude is a loose affiliation of abnormals united by a common goal — that of saving the planet from itself. And Pentex, being the poster child of corporate greed and callous disregard for the environment, is at the top of the ZeLat’s shit list. Pentex operations in South America have been particularly ripe targets for the ZeLats — Good House International is a major source of deforestation, ranchers who supply O’Tolly’s with beef use slash-and-burn farming to clear the way for cattle farms, Hallahan fishing boats kill dolphins by the thousands and also engage in illegal whaling, and Magadon exploits the Amazon for new miracle drugs to push on consumers. It was only natural that the two forces would conflict.
- Incognito — The anarchic hacktivist collective Incognito are another particularly troublesome pebble in Pentex’s shoe. The group is the largest of its kind, home to the world’s most skilled anonymous hackers. And they have a Social Justice bent. They’ve waged campaigns of harassment and cyber-terror against many who think themselves above the common man — taking down websites, infecting Pentex servers with malware, stealing and releasing damaging documents to the public, identity theft targeting members of the Board — all of these and more are grand games to the hacktivists of Incognito.