ENTRY 007: The Fear
Fear is a survival trait, an autoimmune response with pre-programmed triggers that have historically helped transhumanity to fight against the disease of death. All the worse then when fear becomes an autoimmune disease—instead of keeping transhumans alive, it can keep them from living, trapped in their habitats, their bodies, their thinking, unable to face the stars or their own limitations. The infinite transhuman potential kept caged by the same instincts that once helped us escape the Earth and the limitations of our own genetics.
The Fear is a disease, one of the most subtle exsurgent viruses, but one that only targets biomorphs and is usually spread by contact. The infection takes hold slowly and has the potential to affect large segments of the population, especially crowded habitats. The only outward sign in the infected is reticence—to resleeve, to move on, to see the stars; their minds attempt to form rationalizations for the instinctual fear that grips them, which they can barely frame or put words to. Eventually the infected feel fear all the time, threatened by everything, crippled by worry and paranoia. The personal costs of The Fear are magnified in populations: groups because insular, withdrawn, and factitious; habitats no longer look to expand or improve, and many actually become hostile to the idea.
Stage 1 (initial infection to 1 year):
Upon initial infection, the character begins to gain 1 mental stress per month, gradually manifesting as an acute phobia in about six months. At this stage, the phobia is generally very specific—fear of resleeving, fear of space travel or vacuum, even fear of open spaces. Minor habits tend to form to support their fear, like leaving their settings just as they were or putting off necessary upgrades. Characters may realize their fear and seek treatment, but unless the underlying nanobiological infection is recognized or dealt with then psychotherapy will be ineffective and the fear will continue to get worse and more crippling. Characters face a penalty to any action that would invoke their phobia equal to their current mental stress x 3.
Stage 2 (1 year to 2 years):
After one year, the character begins to gain 2 mental stress per month, and their phobia broadens—the character picks up another relevant phobia every three months. At this point, other characters can generally begin to discern something is “off” about the characters, as their daily activities and attitudes tend to be severely curtailed and they begin to be closeted. Psychotherapy is still effective at this point, provided the exsurgent virus is somehow eradicated from the character’s system (typically by resleeving into an uninfected morph). Additional complications may arise depending on how much mental stress the character accumulates while dealing with their issues; it is not uncommon for some (10%) of characters to develop a general anxiety disorder in the 24th month of infection.
Stage 3 (2 years+):
Characters at this stage are consumed by their phobias, and are typically afraid of anything and anyone new, traveling to new places, and any technology or cultural innovation beyond what they knew prior to infection. On busy habitats, such characters inevitably become shut-ins. Curing the afflicted character is still possible with intense and prolonged psychotherapy, but not in their current morph—The Fear literally becomes hard-coded into their systems, and they must be resleeved before any progress can be made.