Apostate. Heretic. Messiah. These are but a few of the countless monikers attached to the quasi-mythical personage of Dimeon Wu, Cardinal-Scientist of the Vatican Arcology and undisputed architect of the Ruin. Comparisons are often drawn between Wu and the early Gnostic heretics of earth's pre-Roman and medieval periods. Such parallels are not inappropriate, and Wu himself often likened himself to a modern Joachim of Flora (it was later discovered that Wu had engineered a Construct of Joachim in the Rome Expanse, the Vatican's little corner of the Net in which Dr. Wu enjoyed a Tier 7 clearance, presumably as an ideological companion; although evidence of the Construct was found, the Construct itself was missing and is thought to have undergone The Replication).
As a result of his interests and researches, Wu eventually found and contacted a number of groups spearheading a kind of New Gnosticism. Although many of his contacts - the Theurgicum and the Followers of the New Kingdom among them - were forbidden according to Vatican decree, Wu's associations and the ideas fostered by those associations had already become something of an obsession for him. Much of this early research served as critical groundwork for his crowning achievement - the now infamous Project Demiurge.
As the scientist's knowledge progressed deeper into several of the mystical disciplines, he began to explore the shadow regions just beyond the Shroud, the spiritual boundary between the mundane world and the mirror realms of the Dream. With the assistance of a student, he also began extensive travels into the deepest reaches of the Matrix; several of his theories suggested a possible connection between the two realms, and his travels were meant to lay the preliminary groundwork for a series of remarkable experiments.
It was on one of these early journeys into the Matrix that Wu first encountered the being called Raziel. Exactly who or what this being actually was remains a matter of some conjecture; many claim it was one of the True Fallen consciously leading Wu down his path of eventual destruction. Others say it was the Black Angel, although his motivation in this, as in all things, is a carefully guarded mystery. Of course, Wu thought it was truly Raziel the angel (a number of post-Ruin investigations have since proved this to be false), and subsequently treated the being like a valued and trusted colleague.
With the aid of Raziel, Wu's researches quickly near completion. Although he calls the proposed experiment Project Demiurge among his close associates, he privately refers to it as The Quest, and seems increasingly (and somewhat irrationally) obsessed with touching the Empyrean. At precisely midnight on December 12, 3013, Dr. Wu initiates phase one of his personal Quest.
Long suspecting the mystic and reflective connection between the Matrix and the Dream, Wu reasoned that if he could join certain esoteric aspects of the two, he could find a usable path or link through both realms to the Other Side, perhaps even to the Empyrean itself. His theory involved an overlapping of consciousness, a merging of his Dream-being and his Net-being into something larger.
The experiment as planned begins with Wu entering the Matrix normally and making contact with Raziel. Together, the two initiate in Wu a ritualistic and lucid dream-state, after which the doctor travels beyond the Shroud in an attempt to forge a lasting bridge among the different levels of consciousness. Successful, he returns in triumph and announces that he has touched Heaven, in the process creating a new plateau of understanding within the accepted landscape of reality.
At least that was how it was supposed to go...
Perceptions of Project Demiurge are as varied as discourses on the Ruin itself. While all agree that sweeping fundamental change has encroached upon static reality, the nature of this change remains a matter of heated dispute. Terms for the Ruin are as abundant as those for Wu himself - Apocalypse, Redemption, Abandonment, Return. All are subjective truths, relevant within their own minuscule slices of reality; however, the larger objective lessons of the Ruin are only now beginning to surface, and their echoes will certainly resound throughout the cosmos for aeons to come.
All first-hand accounts of the Demiurge experiment are taken from Wu's personal encoded journals. These documents were found seven years after the Ruin in a secret memory cache on the periphery of Michaelangelo, one of the Vatican's little-used information arrays. It is from these accounts, and thus by extension from the Cardinal-Scientist directly, that the world eventually learned of Wu's final moments.
His recordings indicate that he indeed entered the Matrix on the eve of the Ruin, traveling to a dark area in the little-used reaches that had been revealed to him by Raziel. Wu knew this place as the Southern Gate, and once there he ritually presented himself as a divine supplicant and made contact with Raziel. The "angel" accompanied the scientist deeper into the Net until they finally arrived at the appointed staging ground for the experiment - an empty stretch of unknown virtual space.
Once there, preparations began immediately; with Raziel's aid, Wu induced a heightened level of REM activity in himself, leading to the establishment of a deep, but semi-conscious, dream-state. Using techniques learned from his more esoteric associations, the scientist began slowly to penetrate the outer layers of his own unconscious mind (or so the recordings claim...).
After an initial exploration and orientation period, his journals indicate that he indeed approached and passed through the Shroud. He was in the process of moving even deeper into the sleep-realm when felt a sort of "tug" from his Matrix-self; as he turned to address the new sensation, he felt what he immediately referred to as a Touch, this time from a secondary presence behind him. And at that moment Reality in a conventional sense ceased to be...
No one except Dimeon Wu knows exactly what happened at the moment of the Ruin. Opinions range from damnation to rebirth, just as appraisals of Dr. Wu run from apostate to messiah (and in fact, in several fledgling post-Ruin religions he is, literally, one or the other; after all, no one knows for certain what became of the scientist). Most knowledgeable individuals, of which there are few, assume that the being who called itself Raziel had a direct hand in the destruction. Most also believe that some type of spiritual polarization occurred, akin to a rebound charge, which had the virtual effect of two similar magnetic poles being forced to overlap. The result was an explosion of devastating negative force, changing the landscape of spiritual, virtual and mundane Reality forever; this, no one disputes.
Both spiritual and physical evolution are taking place at a frightening rate in the new world. The Matrix (now referred to by a plethora of slang, with Decay, Darkness and Cacophony being the most common terms heard) itself has been horribly damaged and has entered a state of seemingly irreversible decay.
Reality Drains, bridges between the virtual and the mundane, have begun to appear in various places within the Net (remember that these Drains are cause of the strange Replication; see the Introduction). Datastorms rage through the new virtual wilderness, and pockets of Toxic Data pose hazards for even the most experienced hacker. Facets - small regions of deteriorating virtual space which simulate entire alternate realities - are also becoming increasingly common. While some experimental Facets were engineered prior to the Ruin, they now seem to have taken on lives of their own.
Finally, there seem to be links appearing between the shattered Matrix and the Shroud, although the latter has not yet been completely breached. Many blame this new digital fascination with the spiritual on renegade intelligences within the Matrix; the Ruin altered many things, and rogue AI's are a distinct possibility. Others whisper that these occurrences are simply the cries of an awakened digital realm experiencing its death agony.
Although the Matrix felt the destruction more deeply , the Ruin did not spare the shadow realms of the Dream. The Aware (those humans who enjoy a fundamental understanding of the Dream) were immediately able to sense the change, normally describing it as "an addition of presence". They also began to notice slight tears and inconsistencies, both in the spiritual material of the Shroud itself and beyond in the landscape of the Dream. Where possible, these individuals began actively seeking such rips and repairing them; after all, the Matrix was already lost and they were determined not to allow the Shroud to suffer a kindred fate. Many lost either life or sanity (or both) during these efforts, but their actions have thus far been successful.
Reports from these travelers tell of numerous odd sightings throughout the dreamscape. Many of the denizens beyond the Shroud have also been "changed". The Memunim (a class of the Fallen formerly in the service of the lords of the dream) are an example of this; the Ruin seems to have made them forget both their origins and their allegiances. They now roam the Dream on mysterious business of their own, serving out of avarice or simple whim. Rumors also persist of an "underground" movement of sorts, and alliance among Forlorn and True Fallen dedicated to freeing Constructs of all sorts (many among the Aware believe this group to be at the heart of The Replication phenomenon).