Saturday, March 2, 2013

061: Wormfeed

ENTRY 061: Wormfeed

A half-forgotten satellite station in orbit of Mars goes quiet and dark. Fifty-three criminal digital intelligences in a Xiphos e-prison are lost, splintered into thousands of pre-sapient feral intelligences. Freelance digital archaeologist Antekles Costanzas delves into the cortical stack of a dead Solaris courier; three days later they find what’s left of Antekles crawling across the floor. Slowly, from the edges of transhuman society, the wormfeed spreads.

One of the lesser-known expressions of the Exsurgent virus, wormfeed has been identified as both a digital virus targeting infomorphs and nanofabricators, and a biological nanovirus. Both forms of the virus attack the ego, splintering the minds of the infected. Infomorphs are forced to fork again and again, backups corrupted, each time resulting in more unstable copies of the original ego, until finally reduced to feral intelligent programs, little more than new carriers for the wormfeed. Infected nanofabricators produce self-sustaining nanobiological constructs similar to planarian worms that act as carriers for the nanobiological version of the virus. The worms have limited mobility, but are drawn to make contact with biomorphs and spread the nanobiological version of wormfeed.

Infected biomorphs experience a steadily degenerating mental state as different personalities manifest and the brain struggles to adapt to the conflicting signals. At the same time their body begins to produce purely biological versions of the wormfeed construct, typically manifesting as internal parasites that are expelled with waste matter. These transgenic worms appear free of any form of the wormfeed virus, but contain DNA from the infected host which is passed on as they reproduce. As far as anyone can determine, the transgenic worms are the lifecycle endstate of the wormfeed virus.


Stage 1 (initial infection to 24 hours):
When infection is complete the host’s ego automatically begins splintering; for digital intelligences treat this as forking except that the alpha ego becomes two new beta egos, then beta egos become delta egos, deltas become gamma, and gammas become new copies of the wormfeed digital virus. Gamemasters that want to give the character a slim chance may allow each new fork a COG + INT Test against the virus to avoid infection, giving them the opportunity to shutdown and reboot.

Biomorphs infected at this stage acquire multiple personality disorder (Eclipse Phase, p.214), with each new personality effectively an Exsurgent NPC. The mental condition of the infected biomorph steadily worsens the number of personalities multiply. NPC personalities may display psi effects, though this is rare. Backups in cortical stacks or connected with the infected host are treated as if exposed to the wormfeed digital virus.

Stage 2 (1 day to 3 days):
Biomorphs begin to express the transgenic worms from their living tissue; typically the worms isolate existing peripheral nerves and bud off, so that the host doesn’t immediately register their absence. Number of worms produced depends on the health of the target and available biological reserves; hosts on life support could produce dozens or hundreds of worms within a matter of days.

Stage 3 (3 days+):
The host body begins to cannibalize itself to produce more transgenic worm constructs; the process continues until the remaining tissues fail. Though the host can be preserved almost indefinitely with advanced medical care and intravenous feeding, at this point they are little more than a biological factory for the worms, which may begin to feed on the host’s remaining tissues.

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