Tuesday, January 29, 2013

029: House of Screaming Bricks

ENTRY 029: House of Screaming Bricks

“The most dangerous infomorphs aren’t given work-study programs or enforced socializing remediation. They’re taken off-line.” – HoSB AdCopy

The House of Screaming Bricks is a for-profit prison satellite orbiting Mars, little more than a server stack connected to a solar panel array. The Management accepts any prisoner, no questions asked, and incarcerates them for whatever period the deliverer pays for. Each infomorph is stripped of embedded software and loaded in a self-contained computer core whose only input is a power cable and only output is an analog temperature sensor. Essential data management functions are built-in, automatically triggered, and unconnected to any other part of the network.

The inmates are aware, and that is it. No interaction, finite memory, and only the most basic of software tools available to them. Some enter stasis. Others run out of memory, and the automatic registers kick in and prune back the memories to the time of incarceration. More than a few go mad. That’s what the customers of the House of Screaming Bricks pay for.

When the incarceration period is up, the inmate’s case officer arranges their release, typically at a major habitat; any relevant social services available at that habitat are contact about the charity case, the date and time of release. The exit interview is a pre-recorded script, advising the inmate of the length of their incarceration and current location.

Using the House of Screaming Bricks

When the gamemaster throws player characters in normal prison, that usually sucks. The HoSB is a bit worse. Solitary confinement with no ability to accomplish anything leads to frustrated players that have to sit on their hands while the game goes on around them. So it is not recommended to use the House of Screaming Bricks for a “send the PCs to prison” storyline. Instead, think of it as a plot device and background element—maybe an infomorph PC or NPC just came out of the House, and is experiencing the Mesh again for the first time in a long time. Maybe an NPC threatens the PC with this—after all, the Management doesn’t care why an infomorph is to be incarcerated, only that the payment is made. Maybe the PCs use the House to dispose of a particularly noxious enemy, or they have to stage a prison break.


  • Communication with the House of Screaming Bricks is down; all incarceration requests forwarded to automated services. The player characters are hired to replace the normal supply ship and investigate, but what they haven’t been told is that Firewall believes a psi-gamma capable exsurgent infomorph may have been incarcerated at the facility and is using their powers to hack the system from within.
  • Gustav One, a slick criminal that plies the Pleiades, lets the PCs in on a little secret. One of the “prisoners” in the House of Screaming Bricks isn’t an infomorph—it’s a dummy cell, a carefully hidden cache of data containing the numbers of thousands of Triad-linked bank accounts. If the PCs are game, Gustav will tell them which cell and they can break into the prison and steal it—his share is fifty percent, of course.


  1. I'm reasonably sure you need a physical brain in order to use psi slights, so a psi-gamma infomorph would be just as stuck as any other infomorph.

    Then again exsurgents and psi-gamma slights might be so powerful as to not require a physical brain, but that seems like a cop-out.

    1. Great comment. I was going off of p.371 of Eclipse Phase: "Exsurgents in synthetic morphs that were transformed via nanoplague may use psi, despite lacking a biological brain. Through some unknown mechanism, the infecting nanobots are able to simulate a biological brain's effects."