ENTRY 217: Gash
Nanoinfection-based birth control did not exactly take off when first introduced. By the time they came around, various forms of birth control implants for both men and women had been around for decades and offered very good rates of protection and hormone balance, so the early nanite systems offered few advantages beyond the ability to be programmed remotely—and that turned into a disadvantage during the much-publicized case of a computer virus that caused six transhumans to spontaneously abort when their deactivated but still present nanite birth control systems were caused to reactivate.
Still, after the technology was mostly abandoned to commercial development, amateurs and hobbyists took up the challenge. Most of them focused on adding additional functionality, sensors, and especially security controls. A number of workable products made it past the alpha stage of development and were made available on the Mesh for personal testing…which is when the first cases of gash were reported.
Exact details on the gash nanoinfection are obscure, even today. It is known to commonly spread through unprotected (or perhaps more accurately insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse, with the nanites able to pass through latex and most other porous materials. Victims are subject to irregular hormone surges often resulting in acne, mood swings, bloating, and sensitivity or development of secondary sexual characteristics such as beards and breasts. The single most common symptom is a periodic shedding of the urinary tract wall, resulting in a bloody or pinkish discharge, which is especially likely to occur immediately after sexual contact. This is believed to have been an effort by the designer to “flush out” possible urinary tract infections, but has become widely known as “the artificial period” or even “the male period,” even though the infection affects all transhuman biomorphs regardless of gender.
Efforts to eliminate gash nanoinfections have been stymied by the rather short duration—most instances last only two weeks before they deteriorate to the point of ineffectiveness—as well as by the security countermeasures programmed into the nanites, which makes remotely deactivating or controlling them very difficult. Still, a single sexually-active transhuman infected with gash can represent a tremendous health risk to a small habitat, and Mesh sleuths are working to track down the afflicted source code and work on effective treatment methods.
Gash is effectively a long-lasting nanotoxin (Eclipse Phase, p.324), with the symptoms given above—these are more embarrassing and personally distressing than long-lasting or mechanically relevant. Nanodetectors can detect this nanotoxin, and nanophages provide complete immunity to infection unless the character chooses to allow it.
Gash is nasty, unpleasant, and often a terrible surprise, and a gamemaster can ask little more for what is effectively a science fiction STD. As with pregnancy and cancer, sexually-transmitted diseases rarely form a part of the typical gaming experience, and when they do it is usually more of a plot point than an actual health threat or the main focus of the game—and so gash has been provided to assist gamemasters that want such a plot point in their game. The most common use of gash in a game is either for one of the PCs to catch it (as their special bonus prize for sexy fun time) and have to figure out what is happening to them and how to cure it (which mainly involves a treatment to counteract the symptoms and wait for the nanoinfection to degrade to ineffectiveness), or for infections to be loose on the habitat and having to track down who or what is responsible and stop it. Other options are of course possible: a particularly nasty version of gash could actually pose a serious health risk, or a particularly lurid villain might deliberately infect certain individuals in an effort to catch their genetic material during a “discharge;” it is up to the gamemaster how anatomically detailed and gross they care to make their plotlines. As a plot point, gash can also make an interesting way to “track” a sexually-active target, by tracing them through their infected partners.