Tuesday, August 20, 2013

232: Mercy Wing

ENTRY 232: Mercy Wing

Not every trip through a gate goes well. No one quite knows why—maybe the receiver gate is damaged, or a collapsing star disrupts the wormhole, or the coordinates fed in were off by a bit. Most of the time when this happens, passage simply fails: the portal does not open, the connection is not made, please try again later. Much more rarely, the connection is disrupted when someone is going through. The survivors of such disasters are brought to the Mercy Wing, an emergency medical research facility which specializes in injuries caused by a sudden change in the local laws of physics.

Gatekeeper Corporation opened up the first Mercy Wing near the Pandora Gate shortly after the first “incident,” and most other groups and corporations (with the general exception of the Fissure Gate—negotiations with the anarchists have broken down again) set up their own emergency medical research facilities, combining the equipment of an experimental physics lab with state-of-the-art medical care. For the majority of Mercy Wings, the first goal is to keep the patient alive (biomorph) or functioning (synthmorph); this was a point of serious contention against their second goal, which was to study the injuries involved to determine what exactly happened. Transferring the patient’s ego to another morph is generally not a high priority, and generally only addressed when the staff finds it convenient.

Of the hundreds or thousands of gatecrashers that have gone through since the first gate was discovered, there have been only eleven recorded “incidents” affecting a total of sixteen gatecrashers. Nine of those have died, two have been rehabilitated, and the other five remain in care—three of them long-term residents of the Mercy Wing at the Pandora Gate. The immediate effects of the physics fluctuation are highly localized to the portions of the individual at the gate threshold during the time of the incident, but secondary effects either from the implications of the initial exposure or from re-exposure to ‘normal’ physics environments are extremely common, and typically include severe radiation exposure and the infamous “exploding hand” syndrome where a part of the individual’s anatomy experiences a sudden state change, typically accompanied by a sizable release of energy.

Using the Mercy Wing

Mercy Wings are secret hospitals that hide the deepest, darkest underbelly of gatecrashing—injuries so rare and random that there’s no point in rolling the dice for them because the normal chances of an “incident” while going through a gate is infinitesimal. The only reason transhumanity has suffered so many “incidents” is because they’re still playing fast and loose with the gate network. So having said that, any time a character suffers an “incident” passing through a gate is not a matter of the roll of the dice, but gamemaster fiat.

While physics majors might enjoy the hypothetical scenario about what happens when you stick your hand into a universe where the Plank constant suddenly decides it wants to be lower, for most gamemaster it is enough to say that very likely whatever part of the character that was at the gate threshold at the time will explode (or fuse, transmute, start to undergo rapid radioactive decay, etc.) and the character will suffer a relatively severe shock (as well as the effects of the explosion/radiation exposure, etc.) Immediate medical care is their only hope for survival, and so the crews are ready to take them down to the nearby Mercy Wing. Other injuries are possible if the GM is feeling creative, but the afflicted character is likely to be out of play for a considerable time, so it isn’t recommended to subject PCs to gate malfunctions. Rather, these gate errors, resulting injuries, and the Mercy Wing emergency medical research facilities are great setting material for games set around a gate, especially if the PC gatecrashers are getting cocky and think they know everything. The few survivors of gate malfunctions may even summon the PCs to a Mercy Wing and ask them to carry out a final task for them.


  • In as many weeks there have been two “incidents” at the local gate—and the PCs are scheduled to go through on a gatecrashing mission soon! Is this just a statistical fluke, or has somebody figured out how to deliberately cause gate malfunctions to weed out the competition? The only answers may like in the Mercy Wing.

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