ENTRY 109: Apsych
There have been many efforts to define transhumanity, to find some universal common ground that unites everyone on some basic, fundamental level—not in an abstract sense, but as a real material denominator. Scientist-philosophers have mapped the brain, dissected the process of memory, explored the thresholds of consciousness in every morph of every spectrum of transhumanity, looking for the link, the pattern, the signal, the combination of things that differentiates human intelligence from…something else. Some think they’ve found it, their peers generally think they’re full of shit. No one has been able to definitively isolate and prove that they this universal key to human consciousness even exists.
Except that it can be taken away.
Apsych is one of the more frightening expressions of the exsurgent virus, because the change it makes is so subtle that the mechanism is still unclear, and researchers who have had a chance to study the effects are still debating what it does, but as near as can be determined the infection leads to ego death—the catastrophic and irreversible cessation of human intelligence. Aside from a slight spike in certain neurotransmitter levels, there is no apparent physical mechanism to the change; exploratory surgery has shown that the individual biomorphs afflicted are still perfectly functional, the brain still receiving and recording sensory input—indeed, all the memories of the original ego are still intact, encoded in the grey matter or cyberbrain. But the ego that once caused that body to move and feel and think is just…gone.
The current best guess by researchers is that apsych may be an incomplete form of the exsurgent virus, originally intended to rewrite egos into sleeper agents. The alternative is a bit more stark: apsych is a killswitch, a weapon of genocide designed to dispose of transhumanity when it has finished serving its purpose. A minority opinion, generally held by exsurgent terrorists, is that apsych actually frees the ego somehow, leaving the morph behind.
Stage 1 (initial infection to 1 day):
Upon infection, the individual gains 1 mental stress per hour, manifesting as an increased tendency toward daydreaming. Minor physical symptoms—slight headache, heightened blood pressure, and stiff neck are common. During this stage the character is highly infectious to other biomorphs.
Stage 2 (1 day to 2 days):
After 24 hours, the character begins to suffer blackouts, initially only a few seconds, but with periods increasing geometrically during the day. Early symptoms appear to coincide with epilepsy, and treatment with antiepileptic drugs can extend this stage almost indefinitely, though most morphs develop a tolerance within a few months.
Stage 3 (2 days+):
At this stage, the character’s ego is gone, and their morph is just an empty shell. Forks in cortical stacks retrieved after this point are typically corrupted and irretrievable. The character is essentially dead, even if their morph is still breathing. At this stage the morph is no longer infected; the apsych virus rapidly breaks down and is no longer present in their tissues. If the morph has a cyberbrain, a new fork (even a copy of the old ego) can be downloaded into it.