Friday, May 31, 2013

151: Mood Lizard



ENTRY 151: Mood Lizard

The Mogwai Experimental Animal Therapy Group based out of Godwinhead is a research/marketing cell working to commercialize and popularize therapy animals. Over a century of research has shown the therapeutic benefits of therapy animals to transhumans, reducing the stress of transhuman and posthuman life and promoting positive qualities; what MEAT-G is attempting to discover is the most profitable critter with a broad consumer appeal and bring it to market. Most of their work to date has seen only modest successes like the Yeti Tarantula (“The Furry Spider You Can Pet!”™), but their latest creation seems like a sure-seller: the Mood Lizard.

Using the Namaqua Chameleon as the base genetic chassis, MEAT-G has engineered a companionate animal with a much broader color-change mechanism tied to a trade secret sensory data interpretation node in the brain—the lizard literally changes color to reflect the emotions of the nearest transhuman. Group testing in children and psychotherapy patients has proven positive, especially among synthmorphs as the Mood Lizards like to crawl up on the shell above the power supply and bask in the warm spot. MEAT-G is looking to begin initial market testing on a commercial level soon—if successful, they’ll move into general production.

Mechanics

Mood Lizards all have Psi Level 1 trait and a variation of the Psi-Gamma sleight Empathic Scan with a duration of Constant (Eclipse Phase, p.226). (They might also have Psi-Chi sleights, but it’s hard to tell with a lizard.) About 1 in 20 Mood Lizards is a carrier for the Watts-MacLeod strain of the Exsurgent virus, which may be contracted from contact with their saliva or feces.

Seeds

  • A Firewall team tracking surviving victims of the TITANs that may have been exposed to the Exsurgent virus has found a “cell” of four possible infectees in the same group—MEAT-G. Combined with the empathic chameleons the group is putting out, Firewall has decided to red flag the group. The PCs are asked to shut the entire operation down with prejudice before the Mood Lizards go into production. They will provide as much firepower as the PCs need…but they want every living thing associated with MEAT-G destroyed, including any infected patients in the test groups.
  • While the Mood Lizards are still being tested, MEAT-G’s scientists are moving ahead with Phase II—the Mood Rex! Larger, bipedal lizards with claws and fast reflexes (equivalent to neurachem Level 1) and stronger psi abilities (Drive Emotion sleight), the Mood Rex is a weaponized prototype designed for military and law enforcement use. When a competitor on the genepet market steals a batch of fifty Mood Lizards, MEAT-G hires the PCs to get them back…and asks them to field-test Mood Rex at the same time!
  • One of the therapy patients misunderstood the point of the Mood Lizard they were given, and cooked and ate it. Now they claim to be sick from the lizard meat and is suing MEAT-G. The therapy group hires the PCs to investigate the victim, a remade named Ianthe Complex (see Entry 150), and find anything to make them drop the suit.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

150: Ianthe Complex


ENTRY 150: Ianthe Complex

Resleeving is easy. Augmentation and cosmetic alteration is even easier. The limits of what a morph can look like are relatively few, if you have the resources and imagination. In the rush to perfection, many transhumans forget that there are egos out there with issues: body integrity identity disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, compulsive overeating, muscle dysmorphia, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, dermatillomania, trichotillomania, and all the rest. These conditions don’t just go away when the ego is augmented or resleeved to a new morph; in some cases easy access to personal augmentation just feeds and enables the affliction—or worse, push the ego over a precipice into much more disturbing psychopathology.

Ianthe Complex looks like a nine-foot-tall Remade wetdream clothed in flesh. Standing still they look like an anime seductress made flesh, high elfin cheekbones and massive breasts, impossibly thin arms and legs ending in hand-like claws, a waspish waist over massive hips. When she moves the illusion is shattered, muscles bunches and rippling just beneath the skin like a shaved jungle cat. The effect is at once alluring and disturbing to most humans, but few look past the surface to the dangerous, damaged persona inhabiting that singularly striking morph. A broken seductress whose inability to accept their body has led them to seek to perfect others.

Ianthe lures their victims back to their secret love nest—a faraday cage sealed off from the rest of the habitat where no one can hear the victims scream. A single victim can last for weeks or months as they remake them with the needle, and the scalpel, and the rack. Most die from cumulative surgeries; they keep the victim’s cortical stacks as mementos of their time together. A few are eventually released, if Ianthe is pleased with the results; these crippled morphs are often too far gone to be much help in identifying their tormentor.

COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
24
19
14
19
21
25
12
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
7
2
24
4
48
40
8
60

Morph: Remade
Skills: Academics: Psychology 33, Art: Dancing 75, Art: Erotic Entertainment 66, Art: Scarification 60, Beam Weapons 33, Deception 75, Disguise 55, Fray 44, Infiltration 40, Infosec 45, Interests: Cosmetic Augmentation 66, Interests: Criminal Psychology 40, Interests: Xipe Totec 60, Kinesics 44, Language: Native Portuguese 84, Language: English 50, Language: Spanish 66, Medicine: Cosmetic Surgery 66, Networking: Hypercorps 30, Networking: Media 30, Palming 44, Perception 60, Persuasion (Seduction) 70, Profession: Social Director 65, Protocol 66, Unarmed Combat (Subdual) 77
Implants: Adrenal Boost, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Circadian Regulation, Claws, Clean Metabolism, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Enhanced Pheromones, Enhanced Respiration, Prehensile Feet, Sex Switch, Neurachem (Level 1), Temperature Tolerance, Toxin Filters
Traits: Mental Disorder (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), Patron, Striking Looks (Level 2), Uncanny Valley

Using Ianthe Complex

A serial killer, kidnapper, and amateur cosmetic surgeon, Ianthe Complex works out their inability to be satisfied with their body by helping to “perfect” others—living examples of which tend to end up as grotesques. Even as intelligent and clever as they are, Ianthe should have been caught by now, except that they have attracted the secret patronage of some highly-placed individual that admires their handiwork. Gamemasters are encouraged to play up the awkward, unnatural but sociable outer personality that Ianthe projects when engaging with others; most characters find it no more strange than that of any transhuman who has undergone considerable personal augmentations. The change comes when cornered or dealing with the PCs in private—the mask drops to reveal something feral but calculating, cruelly creative, and very dangerous.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

149: Goopers



ENTRY 149: Goopers

Exhuman cliques tend to push the boundaries of the available technology, driving themselves along the bleeding edge of innovation as they work to transcend or remove themselves from the traditional mental, social, and physical limitations of human existence. One such group is the Liquid Morph Project, which pursues the technical challenge of building a fluid or mostly-fluid based morph. Derisively nicknamed “Goopers” by many, they’ve managed some moderate successes with a series of morphs based around a strong, flexible plastic membrane with over a million piezoelectric feet/sensors filled with fluidic circuits and a distributed nanite-based computer network that sustains the guiding intelligence. These bean-bag like fluid morphs are vacuum-sealed and can be powered by thermoelectricity, with a plastic surface area that allows them considerable ability to reshape themselves, but yet lack considerable means of manipulating the environment; communication is mostly via the Mesh, vibration, or changing color. The Gooper habitat is little more than a small research station on the surface of Neptune’s moon Nereid, where the fluid morphs can easily operate on the surface.

To fund their research, the Goopers have been experimenting with smaller-scale “pet” fluid morphs, called Liters (as each has about one liter of fluid volume). Liters are driven by primitive AGI based on the intellects and responses of relatively intelligent small animals like rats, squirrels, and ferrets, modified to take into account their lack of limbs and changed sensory apparatus. Unlike traditional biomorphs, Liters are fairly self-sufficient, require little physical maintenance, and can be extremely sociable. Focus group testing for the Liters is currently being conducted in Ilmarinen and Glitch habitats, and if the feedback is good the Goopers are ready to begin full production, with contracts being negotiated with retailers on Titan and Mars.

Using Goopers

The philosophical approach of the Goopers is that freedom from mechanical constraints is essential to freedom from the human condition, and dream of a variant grey goo scenario where they all live as liquid suspensions of nanite clouds in one vast ocean, forming bodies and structures according to their needs. That said, the Goopers recognize how far off their dream is, and the difficulties of their particular approach, which is why they’re trying to drum up funding. While it is possible for the gamemaster to portray them as cunning and malevolent water balloons, most Goopers spend their days on cat-schedules, stretched out on the surface of Nereid with one end in shadow and the other in sunlight to generate thermoelectricity, plugging away at the mental problems of achieving their liquid paradise.

Seed

  • A political snafu occurred on Ilmarinen when a visiting argonaut mistook the Gooper ambassador for a gel chair and sat on it. Worse, the sudden drastic pressure caused a puncture and the ambassador lost fluid before the membrane sealed itself. The Goopers are furious and have become incommunicative. The Ilmarinens need a neutral third party to visit Nereid and apologize on their behalf. If they accept, the PCs are informed that the incident was staged by the Ilmarinen Secretum, a private industrial espionage group that believes the Goopers are planning on using the Liters for espionage (which is half-true, the Liters do record information and transfer it back via certain channels, but solely for customer feedback purposes), and that in addition to the apology their main mission is to snoop out as much of the Gooper’s plans and technology as possible.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

148: Gravity Bridge

ENTRY 148: Gravity Bridge

Ruby is an exoplanet accessible through the Martian Gate, an irregularly shaped planetoid that shows signs of heavy industrialization orbiting a red giant somewhere on the far side of the Crab Nebula. The gate is located on the lip of an open-pit mine, one of fifteen such bores on the exoplanet’s surface, and the first explorer fell three hundred meters down the terraced slope before it could arrest its fall. Soil samples indicate the race who built it was probably mining for radioactive materials, especially a particularly blazing form of aluminum oxide contaminated and splendidly colored by native uranium ores to yield rainbow-shifted rubies, some up to ten centimeters long. The center of the pit is filled with waste materials from the mining and processing operations that must once have been a major concern: there are at least three hundred metric tons of radioactive slag, spent fuel rods, and assorted other junk piled into the middle of the hole. On any other exoplanet, the prospect of picking through the toxic and radioactive waste from the abandoned mining station of an apparently space-going alien civilization would be counted as a major win—but Ruby has something more: the Gravity Bridge.

Hanging above the horizon and about a hundred kilometers from Ruby in a parallel orbit around the red giant is an artificial satellite, a ring of metal with an inner diameter of 16.3 meters—more than big enough for a ship or ore container to pass through. If a viewer on the surface stares up and looks straight through the ring, they notice something weird: the stars and planets seem to shift toward the center. The first observers considered it an optical illusion; subsequent tests proved that gravity within the ring really was abnormal, producing approximately 30g of acceleration passing from the side facing Ruby to the other side. Ships (or anything, really) that approach within a kilometer or so will be sucked in and accelerated at a leisurely 300 meters/second squared, usually hitting a velocity of a couple thousand kilometers per second by the time they leave the trailing area of the effect. Fine for rocks, not so good for organics.

The Gravity Bridge is plainly a one-way device for speeding up transport from Ruby to whatever the bridge was pointed at—currently the ring appears to be oriented toward an asteroid belt 53 million kilometers distant that might have been a fair-sized planet at one point. It would have been a cost-efficient method for a long-term mining. Researchers speculate the patch of distorted space-time is caused by exotic matter from within the satellite itself, though they’ve been slow and careful in their examination so far, afraid to break the device, which they believe might be a primitive precursor to Pandora gate technology.

Mechanics

The surface of Ruby is a mildly radioactive near-vacuum with very low gravity (0.1g); anyone that jumps to hard will find themselves falling into space, drifting toward the Gravity Bridge, accelerated very quickly indeed and flung out in space in an arc that would eventually take them to an asteroid field that may or may not contain the debris of a former spacefaring civilization. Alternately, characters can not do that and take a ship, which is generally safer.

Seed

  • A medium-sized automated explorer vessel with a resleeving station and a group of synthmorphs was pushed through the Gravity Bridge and with the gravity assist has reached the asteroid belt in record time. The call has gone out for gatecrashers willing to do an initial survey—a job slated to last at least twenty-four months (including two months training and prep), but with a massive payout at the end with plenty of bonuses if the characters find anything interesting. If the PCs want the job, they’ll probably have to call in every favor they ever owed and stretch their rep to the max…but at the end of the two-year mission, they’ll either be dead or rolling in fortune and glory.

Monday, May 27, 2013

147: Blackbodies

ENTRY 147: Blackbodies

Transhumanity is not alone in the universe, but it need not bother the Factors or gate to an exoplanet for proof. They were first revealed by Eva Motowski, an ice prospector/scientist mapping the slow tidal movements of Saturn’s rings, caused by some of the shepherd moons that prevent the rings from dispersing. Overlapping measurements from different angles revealed the presence of a small, angular superblack object which Motowski speculated might be carbon agglutination. A probe sent into the region found no trace of it, but reports of similar artifacts came in from Jol Kebana, an amateur astronomer on Titan. The ice prospector and astronomer collaborated, seeking out other telescopes and sensors pointed in the right direction at the right time, and over the course of several weeks traced out a probable trajectory for the object. Presenting their data, they convinced the operators of three radio telescopes to direct their equipment toward a specific region of trans-Saturnian space for a period of 72 hours.

This time, there were four of them.

That was the last time the blackbodies were seen around Saturn, although a handful of possible sightings have been made around Neptune. Consensus in the scientific community about the nature of the blackbodies is fairly solid: small superblack craft whose hulls absorb the majority of electromagnetic radiation, or at least the kinds of light and radio waves that transhumanity typically uses in its long-range sensors. In theory this is near-perfect camouflage so long as the vessel is not viewed only against black space in a vacuum. The effect is not perfect however, so that different angles absorb and emit slightly more or less energy; a single telescope might get lucky, two or more pointed at the same spot from different angles are much more likely to pick up the craft.

Questions remain, however. If the surmise on the technology is correct, the vessels should build up a vast amount of waste heat—all the energy it absorbs and does not emit. Aside from the heat problem, the technology involved is within current transhuman capabilities. Given that, it is reasonable to assume the blackbodies’ originate from one of the existing factions, the Factors, or the TITANs, though certain parties still prefer the idea of a new, unknown extraterrestrial race that is spying on transhumanity prior to making contact. The Factors for their part have not answered any questions about the craft, and none of the major factions have demonstrated craft with similar capabilities so far.

Seed

  • Jol Kebana has a divergent theory about the blackbodies: they think that blackbodies actually are a carbon-based lifeform native to Saturnian orbit, and that the angular shape represents the “tacking” of its natural light sails. Using some arcane calculations (and half-assed guesses), Jol believes that the blackbodies will return in the wake of Saturn’s moon Pan—and wants the PCs stationed at different points with cameras to capture a good close-up look at it. Floating alone in space to capture a maybe-living superblack object…nothing could go wrong with that, except perhaps a pirate ship inspired by the blackbody sightings to mimic their appearance.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

146: Innata Jayne


ENTRY 146: Innata Jayne

“The problem with anarchy is that it works. Most communities are unconscious things, the agreements and structures and people that hold it up are invisible, unseen; people move about their lives with no awareness of the structure of things, who they depend on, who depends on them. But anarchist communities are conscious. There is no taken for granted, there is no invisible framework. What people want and need, they need to interact with other people to get it. Make arrangements, treaties, fuck, say please, whatever it takes. Saying please is very important. Some people forget that.”
- Innata, Course Notes to Anarchy for the Masses 201

Just because there are no rules does not mean that there are no consequences. Anarchist communities thrive on the dynamic between self-reliance and interdependence; if no one worked together then the lifecycle of an anarchist habitat would be measured in repair cycles. For a lot of anarchists, this means that they become invested in the community, checking on the air filters and making small unscheduled repairs and making sure maintenance is done correctly because if they don’t do it, there is no saying whether anyone else will. Rep systems help considerably, providing both immediate and quantifiable results to the rest of the community about what an individual is doing. Some of the anarchists with the highest reps aren’t the founder-philosophers or artists, but the plumbers, the hydroponics farmers, and the technicians that keep things running—not because they were told to do it, or scheduled to do it, but because they know how to do it and want to make sure it gets done, for their benefit as much as anyone else’s.

Then there’s the other end of the rep spectrum: loafers, thieves, welchers, double-dealers usually, murderers and rapists at worst. They’re the takers of the system, economic parasites who don’t contribute to anarchist society. Old-fashioned societies would remove them from circulation, have the police put them in prison or the court system, make them somebody else’s problem. Anarchists don’t have police, but they also tend to frown on mob justice. Instead, they tend to rely on specialist mediators like Innata—one part social worker, one part bounty hunter, a massive bear of a woman with a preference for thick, hand-knit sweaters.

Innata doesn’t work for free or out of the goodness of her heart, but she does perform a valuable community service by keeping tabs and making relationships with the lowest-rep members of anarchist communities. Sometimes she lectures, sometimes she mothers, sometimes she breaks their teeth. Any that present a clear and present danger to others she kills. This she does without backup, without authority; if she bites off more than she can handle, there is no one to save her from a beatdown or worse. Anarchists tend to be ambivalent about her at best; the more enlightened recognize her function, but most see her as a self-elected cop on a power trip, but that doesn’t stop them from hiring her when they get ripped off or beaten up, or some asshole decides to defecate in the air filters.

COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
15
20
14
23
20
26
21
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
7
2
42
8
84
65
13
75

Morph: Fury
Skills: Academics: Anthropology 55, Academics: Philosophy (Anarchist) 70, Art: Knitting 50, Beam Weapons 75, Blades 66, Clubs 66, Deception 55, Demolitions 25, Fray 66, Free Fall 60, Gunnery 44, Impersonation 55, Infiltration 66, Infosec 55,  Interests: Anarchist Politics 66, Interfacing 40, Kinetic Weapons 50, Language: Native Persian 80, Language: English 75, Language: French 44, Language: Russian 60, Negotiation 65, Networking: Autonomists 80, Networking: Criminals 55, Perception: 70, Profession: Social Worker 77, Profession: Enforcer 66, Spray Weapons 55, Unarmed Combat (Subdual)70
Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Bioweave (Light), Circadian Regulation, Clean Metabolism, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, Neurachem (Level 1), Toxin Filters
Traits: Addiction (Painkillers, Minor), Brave, Danger Sense, Neural Damage (neuropathy), Pain Tolerance (Level 2), Tough (Level 3)

Using Innata

Innata is not a cop, she’s a social worker with an attitude and a set of sap gloves. The difference is important: there are no rules and regulations for her to follow, no default script to refer to. Still, Innata understands that most non-anarchists don’t get the subtleties of what she does, and if it helps them out she’ll play the lone marshal or the bounty hunter or the concerned public servant to make their lives easier. Her prime concern are the seedier parts of anarchist habitats, and that’s where the PCs are likely to find her if they need to. As a contact or an ally, Innata is happy to exchange favors for favors—she can always use backup when forcing a dangerous “client” into rehab or delivering a beating and lecture. Innata will only be the character’s enemy if they get a bad rep with an anarchist faction; and even then she’ll probably try to talk to them into making reparations before resorting to violence.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

145: The Faceless


ENTRY 145: The Faceless

Wherever transhumanity goes, it makes legends—some new, some old but adapted to the syntax of the times. One of the most popular, spread on chat-systems throughout the Mesh, is about a small, out-of-the-way site on the Mesh, which takes the appearance of an endless void and a sphinx without a face. Beyond this, the details vary: some claim that it can only be accessed at certain times or in certain ways, though never with a passcode; visitors are said to sometimes go mad, or feel the faceless sphinx pursue them in their dreams. A thousand variations detail what happens when the sphinx catches you, including a sizable amount of erotic fanfiction. Entire XP epics have been produced around the legend of The Faceless, and more than a few petals.

Of course, the site is real. At any given time hackers and fans have whipped up at least a dozen variations, based on different parts of the legend and their own abilities. Some of them are traps containing digital threats; others are mere artistic efforts. Most tend to suffer a degree of vandalism once uncovered, hackers expressing their opinions of the juvenile story in no uncertain terms. Naturally, there is a sizable subsidiary body of legend about those cursed hackers who defaced the sphinx and suffered for it… Mesh scripts tend to focus on the face, subtly playing with the viewer’s senses—drawing their attention, making them feel uneasy, holding their gaze—simple tricks, but sometimes very effective.

Folklorists on Titan have spent years collecting, collating, and tracing the legend, cross-referencing with different pieces of art and fiction, tracking its spread, permutation, and source. Some think they even seeded the story deliberately, to track transhumanity’s vulnerability to memetic warfare, but the most popular study traces the Faceless legend back to an anomalous artifact said to have been discovered on Mars (or Luna, or Pluto, or an exoplanet…), represented by some damaged holographic stills—and indeed, the very earliest surviving images of the Faceless are remarkably consistent.

In these images the body of the sphinx is not that of an unmodified terrestrial lion, nor is the faceless head particularly human; it has six legs and a rusty hide stretched taut over a skeleton with too many bones. Most images the face region jagged and splintered as though broken off; a minority has it carefully sanded blank or eroded away, or even replaced with a gaping hollow.

Using the Faceless

At the most basic level, The Faceless is an internet legend updated to the Mesh, and can be played straight: gamemasters can use variations on the Faceless for any number of adventures where the plot revolves around someone believing (or trying to make others believe) in the legend of the Faceless—someone visits the site and ends up brain dead or insane, babbling about the sphinx for example—or else the site is set up to prey on those aware of the legend, and contains a basilisk hack that activates when a critical audience threshold is reached. On another level, there may actually be something to the whole Faceless legend, a seed of truth that the player characters can track down to uncover a pre-human artifact…and possibly the individual or group that has been working to cover up its existence, so that the Faceless remains just a legend.

Friday, May 24, 2013

144: Shipslug



ENTRY 144: Shipslug

Autonomist habitats tend to take a pragmatic approach to criminal offenses. With omnipresent camera coverage and Mesh-based tracking, evidence for minor offenses is typically overwhelming and trials little more than a formality; legal emphasis typically focuses on a negotiated settlement to repair the criminal morph’s relationship with the community—sometimes a fine, more often some form of community service. There are always a few dirty jobs that need to be done on any habitat, and some of the dirtiest are done by shipslugs.

Bioengineered from Terran gastropods, shipslugs are massive pods engineered as vacworkers, clinging to the outside hulls of ships and habitats, absorbing radiation, removing debris, and conducting simple repairs like temporarily patching holes with a silicone-based mucous that hardens into a ceramic plug. While most egos might be disinclined to resleeve into a pod even temporarily, shipslug mesh inserts come with a custom morph-specific built-in augmented reality game that translates their real-world work tasks into short virtual fantasy quests. As a consequence, shipslugs are one of the most popular penal pods currently in production.

Generic Shipslug Stats

Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Mesh Inserts, Carapace Armor, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Ghostrider Module, Grip Pads*, Lidar, Oxygen Reserve, Puppet Sock, Radar, Temperature Tolerance, T-Ray Emitter, Vaccum Sealing
Mobility System: Snake (4/16)
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 40
Wound Threshold: 8
Advantages: Armor (8/8)
Disadvantages: Social Stigma (Pod), Limbless
CP Cost: 40
Credit Cost: Expensive

*The entire underside of a shipslug counts as single massive “foot,” and is mainly used to stay attached to the hull without trouble.

Using Shipslugs

Eventually, the player characters are going to cause some trouble, or at least be blamed for it. Whether in the wrong or not, they need to come to an understanding with the authorities or powers-that-be on the habitat or ship. Prison sucks, so it’s good for the gamemaster to have sole alternative community service/work release solutions available—and while shipslugs may not be the sexiest morphs available (except to other shipslugs), they are fairly durable and can go on extended spacewalks with bare minimum of equipment, making them a solid option for one-shot adventures or sidequests to get the PCs out of their comfort zone for the length of a mission.

Seed

  • While fighting off scum pirates trying to hijack their transport, an errant weapon discharge causes a nearby asteroid to explode, causing micrometeorite damage to the hull and forcing it to call for volunteers to mind the shipslugs to conduct emergency repairs. The science officer asks the PCs to pitch in, explaining that the asteroid was nearly pure platinum-group metals—and the dusty bits and fragments the shipslugs collect can be collected and sold off at the next habitat for a tidy profit which she’ll split with them (her “finder’s fee” is 10% if they feel like negotiating). Of course, the PCs may not be the only ones with that idea…and the scum pirates may still be out there and come back to try their luck again while the shipslugs are hard at work.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

143: Brainbug

ENTRY 143: Brainbug

Minimalism as applied to morphs seeks to simplify, and if possible eliminate, unnecessary elements, focusing on the critical features—which begs the question, what is critical when it comes to a morph? For some, attachment to the classical bipedal human form is simple traditionalism, or, worse, a crippling nostalgia. Mobility is key, as is the essential bioengine that turns matter efficiently into fuel, and self-repair. Most important and defining of all, however, is the ability to sustain transhuman-level intelligence.

Brainbug is a custom-designed, minimalist biomorph, a giant pulsating brainsac with a vaguely human face sitting on top of a body like that of a sixty-centimeter long cockroach. The ‘roach provided the basic biological platform: six segmented legs with enough strength to hold up the brain, a simplified digestive tract that can derive nutrition from damn near anything, and good general tolerance to different environments. The bulbous, over-sized head with the semi-human face perched on top looks like a bad hackjob to anyone unfamiliar with the genetics or basic anatomies involved. Little things like aesthetics and a solid skull were sacrificed in exchange to achieve a maximum brain/body mass ratio; the modified lungs even allow it to speak.

Full tenured faculty at Titan Autonomous University, Brainbug spends its days split mainly between research and lecture. It is the author of dozens of books and hundreds of essays, articles, and reviews, though it is perhaps best known for Titan Eroskandinaviska, an evocative and, at times, incomprehensible multi-level love letter to the geophysical and ethnolinguistic aspects of Titan. Rumor has it that the Brainbug’s personal quarters consist of a cramped nest lined with paper accessible through a large hole in its office wall.

COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
50
13
14
10
10
10
15
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
5
1
30
6
60
20
3
40

Morph: Unique Biomorph
Skills: Academics: Artificial Intelligence 75, Academics: Entomology 85, Academics: Linguistics 85, Academics: Philosophy 75, Academics: Titan History 80, Art: Found Art 55, Climbing 80, Free Fall 45, Interests: Chess 95, Interests: Educational Systems 50, Interests: Go 90, Interests: Intelligence Research 75, Interests: Xeno-insects 80, Interfacing 65, Investigation 75, Language: Native SkandinavĂ­ska 99, Language: German 75, Language: Mandarin 75, Language: English 75, Networking: Scientists 80, Profession: Teaching 95, Programming 75, Protocol 75, Research 95, Scrounging 70
Enhancements/Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Emotional Dampers, Enhanced Smell/Taste, Grip Pads, Hyperlinguist, Math Boost, Temperature Tolerance, Toxin Filters
Disadvantages: No hands/manipulator limbs

Using Brainbug

Insects are one of the critters that the majority of humans find both instinctively fascinating and creepy; a two-foot long roach with a mockery of a human head balanced on top is liable to elicit some substantial reactions from players, and well it should. Brainbug as presented is mostly harmless, a university professor that has exchanged traditional notions of transhumanity in exchange for increased brain mass and cognitive function. As a contact or ally, Brainbug provides all the raw thinking power and academic credentials that player characters could need for most adventures; as an enemy, Brainbug is a decidedly more inhuman Moriarity, protected from suspicion by its rep on Titan but liable to cast schemes that encompass the entire solar system…or beyond.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

142: Heartbulb Brinkers



ENTRY 142: Heartbulb Brinkers

The first step in divergence is insularity, and the Mesh makes it so very easy for groups to form around very specific interests. Isolated individuals separated by millions of kilometers can yet ascribe to the same faith, philosophy, political affiliation, sexual fetish, or musical interests. There are friends and spouses that have never met physically, but have deeper ties to one another than the morphs that live only a meter or two from them. Community, in the transhuman age, is a very flexible, relative, and increasingly voluntary concept. This is in part what makes brinkers so exceptional.

For brinkers, there is no distributed community; they are not (for the most part) networks of disaffected hermits, each living separately. Rather, they are autonomous, concentrated communities that rely on physical and social proximity with other members of their group, and social (and often physical) distance with everyone else. Isolationist, independent, self-sufficient, sometimes antagonist and xenophobic, and introspective, they require isolation to grow and develop along their own lines, or else face their communities being eroded by contact with the cultural pollution of the greater transhuman mediasphere.

Brinker communities form in a great many ways, some centered on charismatic groups or individuals, others as political, economic, religious, or artistic projects—yet there is always a divergence event, a point at which the group identity gels and the split from transhuman society begins. For the Heartbulb Brinkers, this was the popular adoption of the cortical stack.

Heartbulbs were one of many early ego savepoint technologies; an holistic approach which combined the properties of power source, cyberbrain, and cortical stack into a single physical unit. The heartbulb provided both motive power and intelligence to a morph, but was hardened to survive without one, designed so an intelligence could remain active for decades or more even while collecting dust on the shelf. Cost, difficulty of manufacture and other limitations caused heartbulbs to fail and gain traction outside of a core of early adopters, and eventually the technology was shelved as commercially non-viable—so the early adopters pirated it and headed off to no-one-is-quite-sure-where to form their own community. They are still out there, somewhere, developing heartbulb technology and morphs. Sometimes there are reports of a strange morph on the Rim, a non-standard combat synthmorph with a glowing chestpiece and a relatively high rad signature that comes in to trade advanced titanium alloys and ceramics for deuterium. A heartbulb brinker? Maybe.

Using Heartbulb Brinkers

Heartbulb brinkers have taken a slightly divergent tech path from most of transhumanity; their synthmorphs are mere electromechanical shells lacking power source, cyberbrain, or cortical stack, though otherwise they are generally identical to other synthmorphs. All of these functions are provided by the heartbulb; where most transhumans would simply egocast from one morph to another, heartbulb brinkers would physically transfer their heartbulbs between morphs—while this may seem a bit primitive, it preserves the continuity of consciousness of the ego in the heartbulb, greatly easing their ability to resleeve. Left on their own, heartbulbs are extremely durable (field testing has shown them surviving small nuclear explosions up to 10 kilotons) and long lasting; most heartbulbs in existence today have enough power to sustain continuous consciousness for at least a century or more. Each heartbulb brinker contains a memoryscape, a virtual environment sustained by their heartbulb that they can shape and interact with, which helps to prevent them from growing bored or mad during periods when not installed in a morph. Heartbulb brinkers make a point of rescuing heartbulbs from “dead” morphs, as even the destruction of the morph-body is generally insufficient to damage the heartbulb.

Typical Hivebulb Brinker


COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
15
15
15
10
20
8
10
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
3
1
20
4
40
45
9
67

Morph: Slitheroid (Heartbulb)
Skills: Academic: Psychology 50, Academic: Sociology 50, Interfacing 45, Interests: Fonts 90, Kinesics 45, Language Native Swiss 80, Language English 80, Perception 50, Persuasion 35, Profession: Graphic Design 65
Disadvantages: Social Stigma (AGI)
Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Mesh Inserts, Enhanced Vision, Heartbulb, Mnemonic augmentation
Advantage: Armor (8/8) [Heartbulb 15/15]