Wednesday, April 3, 2013

093: Skeeters

ENTRY 093: Skeeters

The mosquitoes of old Earth teemed in their billions and preyed on all manner of terrestrial life; they had discovered a biological niche and through the winnowing of evolution and the process of generations became uniquely adapted to their role. Then came the Fall. While other species on earth were saved on the basis of necessity or sentimentality, the mosquito was seen by transhumanity as a nuisance, and represents a visible gap in most genebanks. While still present in some habitats on Luna and Mars, it exists there as an unwanted passenger unwittingly carried to the stars.

Some forward-thinking transhumans did retain the mosquito, however, or resurrected it from fossil DNA, and turned the swarming pests into biological tools. Bred en masse from teeming eggs floating in a nutrient-rich fluid, the developing mosquitoes are engineered as they grow for specific purposes, disposable biological engines coded to die within hours or days--often within 12 hours of release. These neo-mosquitoes or 'skeeters' are most often employed as on DNA-fishing expeditions—a swarm are released in a habitat from a nanobiological hive, to sample the DNA of any creature present. They flit on ancient impulse to a creature’s dermis and use their proboscis and their saliva to penetrate the skin or hide, pump a sample of fluid (blood, lymph, or whatever else the entity has) into the sealed bag where their stomach should be, then return to their hive so that it may be harvested, sequenced, and catalogued—a process that destroys the skeeter.

Neomosquito saliva itself is laced with anticoagulants, and a weak nerve agent; combined with the small scale of the penetration, the majority of transhumans and animals cannot even feel the sting until after the skeeter has left. A further augmentation typical for skeeters is a reduction in their sensitivity to chemical and biological repellents, though this tends to be associated with grossly reduced ability to home in on targets or return to base.

The second major use of neomosquitoes is as a weapon. Rather than ingest liquid from a victim, the skeeter may inject the target with the contents of its stomach. Given the volume limitations of the neo-mosquito stomach—typically ten or so microliters for the largest skeeters, and down to just a single microliter for other breeds—this payload is almost always nanites or a biological virus. Individual skeeters have a low probability of success unless released in a confined space where the target is obvious and unmoving for a large period of time, so most skeeter assassins are deployed as swarms. High-end skeeters can even be augmented to target a specific biomorph by scent.


  • Firewall fears that a terrorist is planning to unleash a skeeter swarm with a payload of the exsurgent virus, and taps the player characters to investigate and, if possible, prevent the outbreak. If they fail, Firewall will activate a failsafe program in the habitat’s environmental controls, killing everyone in that section of the habitat—including the PCs, if they’re still there.

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