What Happened Before
Your heroes fought and won a Pyrrhic victory over your archvillain, Dr. Metamorph. Jealous of his former mentor and his superpowers, Dr. Franklin Wright became obsessed with giving himself super powers. He studied the genetic elements that were thought to be responsible, and gene spliced himself some superpowers. He gained the ability to dramatically change his shape but couldn’t control it, unable to stay in one shape more than a day, and often much shorter than that. Irrationally blaming your group for this failure, Dr. Metamorph spent many years trying both to destroy your group and give himself control over his powers.
The day when everything went wrong, he thought he had solved both problems: A nanobot gene splicing agent that would remove superpowers from anyone it came in contact with, but be harmless to anyone without the gene or anyone with the appropriate preventative measure (i,e., himself). In a national spotlight, your group failed to stop the launch of the release agent and within minutes, basically blacked out. When you woke up, the world had started going to hell and you were without your powers.
You’ve been able to piece a few things together. The gene splicing agent was built like a virus to be contagious. Dr. Metamorph, while a brilliant scientist, was not a robotics expert and relied on someone else’s work. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. Instead of immediately removing your powers, it affected your brain chemistry, causing you to go berserk, going into a fugue state where you lost control. When your team went berserk, many other superheroes came to stop you, which unfortunately exposed them to the nanobot agent as well. When it eventually reached the government’s Super Max Prison for Powered Criminals, known colloquially as The Hole, it was game over.
Worse yet, the second effect of the nanobots didn’t come into play until shortly after you woke up. What wasn’t supposed to affect humans did anyway. It had been bad enough,the event commonly known among the survivors as Destruction Day (some survivors have begun keeping the calendar as 0 DD and going forward, making the current year 2 DD in that nomenclature). There is no definitive count of how many died in the sheer destruction of powers unleashed. But then the remainder of what was left of the human race died in horrible agony as their genes were randomly arranged by the nanobot plague. Some small percentage of normals were immune as were all people who had powers before that point. Some normals were not immune, but still managed to survive the splicing, but perhaps as something less than human. The Twisted, as they are known, are rightfully feared among the survivor population.
Plant and animal life was mostly unaffected. Most animals passed through unscathed, but not completely. Some species were nearly wiped out and there is a growing population of Twisted animals (but still small). Plant growth in the last two years has been off the charts, if you still had any records left available to you for comparison. Many parts of the world have just become overgrown and inaccessible. There is some speculation that plants were effected positively, but it’s hard to say whether that is the right explanation or whether nature, free of humanity, is just taking back her own. Rumors speak of rare Twisted plants, but nobody has actually confirmed any of those.
You help guard and protect your little section of humanity, uncertain of how many people are still left alive or where. Travel is possible, if dangerous and you have run into some people from various parts of the country. But information is hard to come by and not trustworthy even when you get it. Within the span of two travelers, you’ll hear someone claim that the icecaps were melted as part of Destruction day and that the coasts will be (or already are) underwater and then someone else will claim that a new Ice Age is coming. You’ve not had much time for speculation – you’ve had to build up your fortifications, set up infrastructure for your small community, scavenge for supplies, and defend yourself against dangers both human and otherwise. All the while knowing (and often be reminded) that your failure was indirectly (the nanobot plague) and directly (Destruction Day) responsible for the destruction of the human race.