Friday, November 1, 2013

305: The Itch

ENTRY 305: The Itch

Transhumans get sick. Fact of life. It's ingrained in their bodies and minds, the all the familiar discomforts and signs of the body fighting off an infection or allergen. Sneezing, swelling, soreness, itching...these are part of the transhuman condition. They are so familiar that few transhumans think much of them, the casual aches and pains of life that pass only with time. It is only when they persist and worsen that most transhumans start to worry and seek which time they may be too late.

The Itch is one of the less directly offensive versions of the Exsurgent virus, one that rarely produces monsters or psi powers, and many transhumans suffering from the Itch remains undiagnosed, the core cause of their distress hidden behind secondary infections, surgical addiction, masochistic impulse, suicide attempts, and the like. The slow awareness of the Itch as a distinct infection brings with it the possibility of other subtle Exsurgent viruses, disguised to mimic common transhuman conditions and spread undetected. The Itch is spread primarily by contact with infected bodily fluids. There are limited reports that it may spread through basilisk hacks or have a digital variant that effects synthmorphs, but these are unconfirmed by Firewall at this time.


Stage 1 (initial infection to 1 week):
Upon initial infection, the character begins to gain 1 mental stress per day, gradually manifesting as a psychosomatic itch on some specific part of their body in about six days. At this stage, the itch is minor but persistent and distracting; efforts to scratch it stop short of real self arm but my leave the afflicted area red or sensitive, though a rash never develops. The itch can be ignored with a bit of self-control and gives no penalty at this point. Medications (even placebos) can give some temporary mental relief.

Stage 2 (1 week to 4 weeks):
After one week, the character begins to gain 2 mental stress per day, and their psychosomatic itch grows worse—either doubling in size or increasing in intensity every three days—and many characters develop secondary derangements such as body dismorphia, obsessive compulsive disorders, masochistic sexual behavior, etc. Efforts to relieve the itch intensify, and users might improvise scratching tools or seek further medical treatment, though the character's belief in the medications (and thus their psychological effect) tends to lessen as the itch returns. Typical victims exhibit wounds at the point of the itch, and breaks in the skin may allow secondary infections to set in and enable the spread of the virus through bodily fluids. The itch is also distracting, applying a -5% modifier to all Skill rolls. Psychotherapy is still effective at this point, provided the exsurgent virus is somehow eradicated from the character’s system (typically by resleeving into an uninfected morph). Additional complications may arise depending on how much mental stress the character accumulates while dealing with their issues.

If the location of the itch is surgically removed or replaced, the character temporarily ignores psychological derangements and modifier are temporarily lifted, but mental stress continues to accrue. In week 5, the itch returns, and all the derangements and penalties return.

Stage 3 (5 weeks+):
Characters at this stage are consumed by the Itch, continuing to generate 1 mental stress per week just from the illness—but often generate far more mental stress from efforts to scratch their particular itch, with an increasing penchant for self-harm and surgery to remove the offending body part(s), though this no longer has any effect to relieve the character's discomfort. At this point the Itch is so distracting it applies a permanent -10% modifier to all Skill rolls; the a player character can ignore this for one scene by spending a point of Moxie. In the long term (20+ weeks) characters health will begin to fail, represented by gaining the Frail quality. Roughly (10%) of characters at this stage begin to exhibit physical transformations that correspond with the first stage of infection by another strain of exsurgent virus, as determined by the gamemaster.

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