“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
The period following the end of the Second World War saw a time of huge change for the world. With peace restored, people felt it was safe to start a family again and the so-called Baby Boom ensued. Necessity had opened the door to the working woman and the signs of economic growth and prosperity were everywhere: jobs, families, houses and of course companies.
It was during this period that the Powers came into existence. During the war, several companies had assisted the government in their research into psychics. With the war over and military spending slashed, some of the brighter minds within the Projects turned to their colleagues in the private sector for work. Many of these companies went back to their original lines of business, but a small number continued their work in psychic research, providing lab-space, equipment and, most importantly, funding for teams of scientists determined to uncover the secrets of the psychic brain.
Many of these teams were shut down: after all, if a business unit cannot make money or shows no sign of being able to make a return, they are often the first to lose out in the annual budget rounds. But a few did well enough, through a combination of luck, brilliance and hard work. It was these few which eventually developed into the Powers of today.
With Government observation at an all time low, individual companies were able to relax safety protocols, test more subjects and in some cases expose entire communities to programs of drugs, psychic manipulation and selective breeding, all in an effort to produce more of what they desired most: power. Those companies who decided to take a more humanist approach to their research were quickly made obsolete, taken over or destroyed by rivals.
Were it not for the Cold War with Russia providing much of the cover, the Projects may have been able to stop the development of the Powers before it was too late. As it was, the governments of the NATO and Warsaw Pact nations were too concerned with each other to worry about what was going on in their own backyards. A blend of ruthlessness, subterfuge, assassination and recruitment kept the Powers safe while they accumulated wealth and knowledge.
In the mid-Eighties, with the Cold War winding down, the Projects finally started to take notice of the Powers and what they were doing, but it was already too late–the Powers were well entrenched, hidden, knowledgeable and above all, powerful. Weaker Project espers investigating suspected Power activity while stronger ones were made exorbitant offers to turn coat. In turn, the Projects gave more leeway to their operatives, living by the old adage of the end justifying the means.
This vicious circle continued until late 1987, specifically October 19th, also known as Black Monday. On that day, a well coordinated team of espers, working for Interra Holdings, used their abilities to bring about the largest one-day crash of world stock markets. Interra profited considerably from the crash and, somewhat unsurprisingly, all of their competitors lost out, some to the point of bankruptcy. Up until this point, the Powers had generally left each other alone, content to work on their own research and with their own teams, and occasionally to work together to common end. Black Monday opened up the floodgates.
Three things happened. Firstly, the larger Powers inflicted retribution on Interra. The Projects (and even the Press) reported astonishment at how quickly things like lack of sleep, paranoia, dyslexia and even the odd psychosis did to the mundane staff at Interra. Combined with a few well placed fires, blocked water mains and so forth and eventually Interra stock became junk. De-listing and bankruptcy followed shortly thereafter. The majority stockholders of the company turned out to be the same esper team who had cornered the market–they and their profits vanished without trace before any Power ever came near.
Secondly, Powers turned on each other. No longer seeing each other as potential allies against the Government, the Powers effectively eliminated each other, through legitimate means such as mergers and acquisitions, alongside shadier ones. This consolidation continued through the Nineties, and with the rise of globalization, the handful of remaining Powers settled into an uneasy acceptance of each other. Their activities became a lot harder to track, but their effects became a lot less prominent, and so the Projects eased off on the manpower dedicated to Power containment.
Thirdly, at around about this time, the first recorded Network cells sprung into existence. Up until this point, espers either worked for the Projects or the Powers–one of the two was considered safe haven. Whether or not Black Monday itself was a direct cause of the creation of the Network is unclear. The escalating violence between Projects and Powers alienated a lot of people, and when Powers turned on each other, people needed a place to go.
From the turn of the millennium, the Powers have evolved into what they are today–legitimate businesses, making lots of money in many countries, but with a hidden and darker purpose.