Tuesday, March 31, 2015

90. The Agōgē

"A normal soldier would not sacrifice a limb like Aquinas just had; seven decades of the knowledge that limbs were irreplaceable, and that the loss of one could lead to death, worked against it. This wasn't a problem with Special Forces soldiers, who never could not have a limb grown back, and who knew their body's tolerance for damage was so much higher than a normal soldier could appreciate."
Old Man's War

Direct Action has the war, the Ultimates have the agōgē.

Named for the educational system of ancient Sparta, the agōgē is a simulspace project in which the Ultimates raise their children. Children are generated by algorithms remixing and improving the genes of proven Ultimates; their parent (they have only one) is an unrelated Ultimate fulfilling a duty.

The simulspace environment consists of a small, frozen moon in an elliptical orbit around a Uranus-like gas giant. The elliptical orbit of the moon brings it periodically within the powerful radiation belts of the giant, and so life is divided into two seasons, each approximately eight months long.  In the "hot" season, heavy radiation forbids surface life, and family pairs spend all their time in bunkers. This is when formal, historical, scientific and ideological education takes place. In the "cold" season, the parent and child pairs mine ore and ice, trying to scavenge enough feedstock to last their fabbers and makers through the hot season. Raiding takes place regularly. Killing is neither encouraged nor discouraged; it is expected that half or less of the children will survive the agōgē.

The tough conditions breed tough Ultimates. They have hands-on experience with all the realities of out system life; they learn to wear and repair vaccsuits, mine, program fabbers, fight, steal and above all else, survive. They are accustomed to cold, poorly-mixed air, and injury. They have little material expectations; their parents teach them to strive for the virtues of the Ultimate's philosophy.

The children are born into their remade biomorphs. Baselines tend not to fully trust the greater tolerances of a remade morph, even after years their expectations have deep ties to the body they were born in. The children do not need to become accustomed to the capabilities and tolerances of their heavily engineered bodies; to them drinking salt water and sleeping two hours a day are only natural.

Experimentation has concluded that it is actually best if the children are at least partially aware of the simulated nature of their lives. Throughout their education they will have been told that they are being tested, and that if they succeed they will be brought to the others of their kind. Once a child has been deemed sufficient to graduate into reality (usually between 16 and 18 years of age), they undergo a coming-of-age ceremony, testing their willpower by requiring them to drown themselves. If they succeed, they awaken in Xiphas, the Ultimate's home station, that which they have been striving for. Because of the small poulation of the simulation, the Ultimates can run it at 10x real speed; they can raise a generation every 1.6 - 1.8 years.

Plot Hooks: One child has proven more capable than the Ultimate's could have hoped for. She has deduced the precise nature of the simulspace and been testing its limitations. This has caused an internal rift among the Ultimates. Some believe she is dangerous and troublesome, and will inevitably fight Ultimate authority. Others believe she is the agōgē's greatest success; what better strength than to break from a trap? Firewall would be extremely happy if she were extracted and recruited.

Monday, March 30, 2015

89. Cultures

"Cultures" are a brand of traditional probiotic foods, popular on Venus, Luna and Mars. They are small cookies of edible plastic, shaped like petri dishes, filled with sauerkraut, kefir, miso, yogurt or soft cheeses. The probiotic nature of the filling means that they cannot be preserved as long as most foods; they are usually sold from vending machines maintaining vats of slowly fermenting bacteria, filling the cookies as ordered.

Plot Hook: Cultures vending machines are a good vector for bacterial infection. An unknown person or persons has inoculated a kefir vat with a retrovirus causing the bacteria to excrete the fear-instilling toxin flight. Authorities have treated those effected, destroyed the vending machine and dismissed the act as Autonomist art-sabotage. Firewall, however, believes this was a dry run for a larger, much more lethal attack.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

88. Metamorph

Metamorphs are the current pet project of Gloria de la Poer, one of her personal visions of immortality. Gloria does not believe in immortality as preservation, to her mind change is always necessary and stagnation to be feared. Her metamorphs are designed not to be able to fit a single purpose, but to fit themselves to many purposes as may be needed. A metamorph can survive on Mars, in the seas of Europa, and the Venusian skies, or act as an effective socialite, savant, or combatant, as long as it is given time to prepare itself.

The primary feature of the metamorph is its ability to metamorphize. The morph can begin metamorphosis as a conscious decision, with control over what changes occur. In the first stage, the morph begins to secrete large amounts of fluid from all pores and orifices. This fluid hardens into a tough, tight shell. Once this has been done, the morph releases specialized, symbiotic retroviruses, rewriting the changing genetic code. Accelerated apoptosis and mitosis occurs, rapidly replacing old cells with those expressing the new modifications, and building new tissues and organs as needed. Once this process has been completed, the morph secretes an enzyme, dissolving the shell, and emerging. The brain and continuity of the ego are carefully maintained; unless brain altering modifications are chosen, in which case no promises can be made. The ego remains in a dreamless sleep during metamorphosis.

Mechanics

Metamorphs are biomorphs.

Enhancements: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 40
Wound Threshold: 8
Advantages: Metamorphosis*, +5 to two aptitudes of the player's choice
CP Cost: 50
Credit Cost: Expensive (75,000+)

*The metamorph is capable of metamorphosis, secreting a hard shell (treated as carapace armor (11/11)), and altering its form. The metamorph may re-select its aptitude bonuses, and shift between up to 25,000 credits worth of bioware. The metamorph may also heal itself, as if in a healing vat. This process takes 24 hours, plus 1 hour per cost category of gained or lost enhancements (as with nanofabrication) as well as aptitude bonuses. Any healing time is added to this total.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

87. Gloria de la Poer

Gloria de la Poer was born in the then-new Nytrondheim dome of Valles New-Shanghai on Mars. Her mother was one of the scientists in charge of early terraforming efforts, her father a security contractor who died early in her life. Her education was informal, run by educational software, with ad-hoc lessons from her mother. She eventually became impatient with software and other tutors, learning from her own experiments and research. By the time she had become an adult she was ready to work on terraforming with her mother, but she instead chose a long trip to Earth.

Pre-Fall Earth was not yet dead, but it was still dying. Those sections of humanity not wracked by drought, famine and their associated wars were engaged in hundreds of projects hoped to buy the biosphere time. Gloria de la Poer began freelance work for these projects, spreading her talents and reputation widely across scientific networks. It was here that she created the first manna tree. Whether Earth could have been saved will forever be a mystery, as the TITANs brought a sudden conclusion to the struggles of the planet. When the evacuation of Earth began, she was considered a priority, and on one of the first ships out.

Evacuated to Luna, she made a great deal of money selling biological samples and genetic material she had been able to bring with her from Earth, as well as helping to design ecological systems for the new habitats and expansions necessitated by the diaspora. She was able to purchase a private habitat in Lunar orbit, complete with some of the best biological labs in the system. She now spends her time on her own research, emerging only to sell some of her results when needed.

Gloria de la Poer is interested in immortality. Her personal immortality is assured; she has backups, medichines and a cortical stack like everyone else. She is interested in creations that will live beyond her, and has a fixation on children, literally and figuratively. Her progeny include her son, enhanced for speed and loyalty, and serving as her bodyguard, her two daughters, both enhanced for intelligence, and both now independent and working on their own projects, and a variety of smart animals spliced with sections of her DNA. She is currently attempting to create a morph that will periodically metamorphize, resetting its biological clock as well as altering itself as necessary.

Mechanics

Morph: Menton

Motivations: +Science, +Personal Career, +Immortality

COG 30 COO 15 INT 20 REF 15 SAV 20 SOM 15 WIL 20
MOX - INIT 8 SPD 1 LUC 40 TT 8 IR 80 DUR 35 WT DR 53

Active Skills: Animal Handling 60, Interfacing 80, Investigation 50, Medicine: Biosculpting 75, Medicine: Gene Therapy 70, Medicine: Nanomedicine 70, Networking: Ecologists 50, Networking: Hypercorps 78, Networking: Media 40, Networking: Scientists 68, Perception 50, Persuasion 60, Protocol 80

Knowledge Skills: Academics: Biology 85, Academics: Economics 75, Academics: Genetics 75, Interest: Smart Animals, Language: French (native) 80, Profession: Biodesign 85, Profession: Lab Technician 75

Reputation: c-rep 150, r-rep 90

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Hyper Linguist, Math Boost, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, T-Ray Emitter, Clean Metabolism, Enhanced Pheromones, Endocrine Control

Notes

Inspired by the character Sri Hong-Owen from Paul McAuley's The Quiet War.

Friday, March 27, 2015

86. Manna Trees

Manna trees are one of the most beloved of engineered and domesticated plants. One of the many children of celebrated bio-hacker Gloria de la Poer, whose gift of manna trees to humanity offset some of her infamy. Manna trees are designed to be of use to humanity in as many ways as possible. They bear two types of fruit (one highly nutritious and one containing water), their inner bark, like willow bark, produces aspirin, their leaves can be easily made into paper or fiber, their metabolisms sequester airborne pollutants, and their wood is hard and resistant to rot.

After the destruction of Earth, few manna trees remain. Pre-Fall, only Mars and Titan hosted living trees. Genetic material and information from manna trees was briefly one of the most valuable commodities on the planet. Currently, groves of manna trees can be found growing on Mars, Luna, Titan and Ganymede, but most habitats capable of supporting tree-growth will keep at least one.

Notes

Inspired by the trees of the same name from Paul McAuley's The Quiet War.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

85. Nanoseeds

Proteans are the current peak of light nanofabrication technology, but nanoseeds occupy a reliable niche as inexpensive, single-use fabricators. Nanoseeds consist of compacted pellets of dormant protean nanites. Unlike with protean swarms, nanoseeds come pre-programmed with a single blueprint and enough stored energy to produce it. Plant the seed in a suitable substrate, let it cook, and brush the dirt off your new piece of gear. Protean swarms give you more bang for your buck, but nanoseeds are small and relatively inexpensive; it is common for gatecrashers, scavengers and nomads of all types to carry small packs of seeds as backup for vital equipment.

Mechanics

Nanoseeds work only once, have no means of mobility, and cannot be reprogrammed.

Nanoseeds are nanoswarms [Cost of Equipment]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

84. Dirt™

Pound-for-pound the most popular nanoswarms in the system, it is Dirt™ that allows Earth's plant-life to flourish on Mars, just as it once served as the backbone for the Saharan reclamation projects. Dirt™ can be mixed into hydroponics, mixed into soil, or serve in place of soil, as well as acting as simple medichines for plants. Dirt™ will kill harmful microbes while supporting beneficial ones, sequester toxins, hold water, accelerate composting, and deliver nutrients, seeing to it that your plants' health is served from the molecule up.

Mechanics

Dirt™ is a nanoswarm [Low]

Plot Hook: Dirt™ is also very effective at breaking down bodies. Remnants of a firewall agent are identified in a Martian dirt-farmer's compost. The farmer is the obvious suspect, but is unlikely to have been able to have killed the agent themselves. How far might Dirt™ go to secure nutrients for its plants?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

83. Blood Coral

In small patches across the TITAN Quarantine Zone can be found patches of pale, perforated rock, grown into comforting fractals, with swoops and alcoves offering shelter. Only synths dare take refuge there, however. Upon sensing flesh, through unknown means, the rocks' makers and residents begin to snake long, red tendrils from their holes to feed.

The tendrils of blood coral are treated as having fractal digits, capable of slowly disassembling their prey on a molecular scale, passing molecules down the tendrils, from hair to hair, to fertilize the roots. This rarely does significant damage; the process is quite painful and impossible to ignore. The bigger threat is the holes the tendrils leave as they burrow through vacc-suits.

Mechanics

As with fractal digits, blood coral does 1d10 DV per 5 minutes.

Blood coral only reacts to biomorphs, which they are able to sense even through vacc-suits.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

82. Zombies

The existence of asynchs and their sleights gave rise to huge new questions about transhuman consciousness and egos, and new ideas as to what could be done with transhuman consciousnesses and egos. A research team funded by Direct Action, Fa Jing and Somatek were assigned the "unconscious lead" chi slight. Specifically, hypercorp higher-ups wanted to know if the effect could be reproduced with psychosurgery. They succeeded.

Zombies, those who have undergone the procedure, have no apparent consciousness, and the unconscious sections of the brain are given free reign. Zombies are nonetheless quite competent in everyday life; they may require supervision when dealing with unknowns, but are entirely capable of maintaining a basic routine. One of the largest changes in function is a loss of direction. Commonly zombies are given specialized Muses to assist them in navigating unexpected problems. Without a conscious mind prioritizing tasks, a zombie will simply do whatever falls in line with their basic instincts, whatever they can recognize as critical, and, most importantly, whatever they have been trained to do or ordered to do by recognized authorities.

Control of zombies is handled in two parts. First, before the procedure, the ego is given exhaustive training in whatever tasks they may be required to do. Second, during the procedure, the ego is imprinted with a deep-seated instinct to obey certain people, their muse, or other sources of orders. Once this has been done, the completed zombie will accept commands as if it were their own will.

Zombies are goal-oriented to the point of suicide. Left to their own devices, their basic aversion to pain keeps them from harming themselves, but they will ignore pain, injury and immanent death when pursuing a goal (unless ordered to preserve themselves). They can also be highly suggestible; isolated from their muse or superior, or improperly imprinted, they tend follow any suggestion that is not obviously a bad idea.

Mechanics

Creation of a zombie is a psychosurgical procedure. The zombie gains +1 speed, and do not take SV.

Timeframe: 1 month
PM: -30
SV: -

The procedure is irreversible.

Notes

Inspired by the zombies from Peter Watts' Echopraxia, and the PRISM theory of consciousness.

81. Eusocial Monkey Butlers

The eusocial monkey butlers of many gerentocrat hyperelite estates are the unlikely application of two experiments in monkey domestication. First, the use of monkeys as service animals was bolstered by the development of "smart" breeds, bred and engineered for intelligence, sociability and trainability. Second a retired genetic engineer and nouveau hypoerelite used some of his fortune to splice naked mole rats with macaques, attempting to produce a eusocial primate. The engineer eventually mixed his eusocial monkeys with the helpful smarts, selling the resulting species as animal servants for the home.

Eusocial monkeys gain most of their brains from macaques and naked mole rats, and their bodies from capuchins. They are divided into three castes, usually numbering two to four dozen in total. The first caste are the housekeepers: they interact most often with people, helping and performing chores. The second caste are the hivekeepers: they maintain the monkey hive, receiving and preparing food, caring for the young, and whatever maintenance is required. The third caste are the mothers: they will spend most of their lives pregnant, maintaining the hive's numbers. A eusocial monkey butler hive is usually given its own room, with small tunnels leading throughout the house. The monkeys will build their hive from fabrics and woven string; if not provided with this material they may resort to scavenging.

The usefulness of the monkey butlers comes from their numbers and intelligence. A single hive supports enough housekeepers for all but the largest manors, They can be trained to carry out most of the tasks required of a house servant, from cleaning to simple cooking. Only one monkey has to be taught, however, as the monkeys are eager to teach each other anything important they may have learned.

Mechanics

Treat eusocial monkey butlers as Smart Monkeys, sold by the hive. [Expensive]

Saturday, March 21, 2015

80. Sustenance Spores

Sustenance spores come in small, freeze-dried plastic pouches. Mixed into organic material, the spores will grow into large, puffy fungi, converting the organic matter into edible proteins and carbohydrates. Once matured (after about 48 hours) the user can harvest large puffballs, with remaining inedible material sequestered as "pits" in the center.

Derived from yeast and other fungi, the sustenance spores were developed and marketed as a survival tool. One gram of spores could produce a kilogram of edible fungi, requiring only inedible organic material (such as dirt or rotten food) and a small amount of water. The resulting mushroom, roughly spherical with a hard core like a peach pit, can be eaten like a fruit. They became a staple in impoverished areas of pre-Fall Earth, and a minor ecological disaster when biohackers, hoping to liberate the impoverished from buying the spores, made the fungi fertile. Some gatecrashers will still bring small spore packets in case they encounter a world with suitable organics.

Friday, March 20, 2015

79. Sensor Grenades

Sensor grenade and missiles have become one of the most used pieces of armament in many military and police forces. A sudden onslaught of the terahertz-wave radar emitting and sensing warheads is a common prelude to a raid on Mars. Others use sticky grenades as discrete sensor traps, hiding them throughout a location, then activating them all at once for instant omniscience.

Typically the grenade/missile is thrown/fired, but will not automatically activate. Rather, the user sends a command to activate, the sensor gives off one quick burst of t-rays, then sends its information to its user in another quick burst, lasting in all only fractions of a second. Each pulse only gives a still image; grenade scan emit as often as the user commands, while missiles usually only work once.  Models using their emitters and sending data continuously were ultimately abandoned as they opened too easy a route for hackers into the sensorium of users.

Mechanics

Sensor grenades/missiles are used with the Throwing Weapons/Seeker Weapons skills. [Low]

Like other grenades and missiles, sensor grenades/missiles are available in standard, micro and mini sizes. A standard grenade or minimissile gives off a t-ray pulse as the t-ray emitter augmentation, effective out to 20 meters in atmosphere or 100 in vacuum. A micro grenade or micromissile has half the effective range, a standard missile has twice the effective range.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

78. J.O.E.

Joseph Oliver Easley was born in London a quarter-century before the Fall. He showed an early aptitude for mathematics and it was no surprise when he majored in mathematics, then began graduate work on computer science. He was corrupted into insanity by a TITAN virus during the Fall, a fate which has given him a dangerous curiosity for TITAN tech.

Reinstated from his university's off-world backup, he found himself an infugee. He signed an indenture contract working as mesh security for the Mars Authority, but by the time it was ended he had discovered that he enjoyed infomorph life. He sold his newly earned body and migrated to Glitch. There he began working as a hacktivist, seeking to uncover hypercorp secrets.

J.O.E. was made in AF 8, in a Firewall dead drop server. Joseph had instantiated a beta fork (J.O.E.) directly on the server to reduce latency. Suddenly, however, the server was disconnected, trapping J.O.E. inside. Firewall interviewed the hacker fork they had captured and, having a use for his skills and seeking to prevent his interest in TITANs from becoming dangerous, recruited him.

J.O.E. is resentful of Firewall's restrictions on him; he is not bothered by his status as software, and happy to have the opportunity to uncover secrets and investigate TITANs, but would rather do so on his own terms. Firewall tends to loan J.O.E. to teams requiring a hacker, keeping him in a special portable server-prison that disallows forking or exporting.

Mechanics

Morph: Digimorph

Motivations: +Freedom, +Virtual Reality, +Hacktivism

COG 20 COO 10 INT 10 REF 10 SAV 10 SOM 10 WIL 10
MOX - INIT 4 SPD 3 LUC 20 TT 6 IR 60 DUR - WT - DR -

Active Skills: Fray 20, Hardware: Electronics 58, Hardware: Robotics 58, Infosec 60, Interfacing 60, Medicine: Nanomedicine 55, Networking: Scientists 50, Pilot: Groundcraft 40, Programming 60, Psychosurgery 40, Research 50

Knowledge Skills: Academics: Computer Science 50, Academics: Cryptography 58, Academics: Mathematics 58, Interest: Science Fiction 58, Interest: Simulspace 63, Interest TITAN Tech 63, Language: English (Native) 80, Profession: Darknet Operations 58, Profession: Mesh Security Operations 68

Reputation: @-rep 50, i-rep 40, r-rep 50

Implants: Mnemonic Augmentation

Note that J.O.E. is a beta fork.

Using J.O.E.: I've made J.O.E. with the intention of acting as a convenient "hacker-in-a-box" for groups lacking an infosec specialist. His interests in TITAN tech also let him act as adviser, minor antagonist, or instigator of TITAN/singularity seeker oriented missions.

Plot Hook: Joseph Oliver Easley is still out there somewhere, a skilled hacker who would love to know all that J.O.E. has learned from Firewall. J.O.E., resentful as he is, would not like an attempt re-merging after their long time separated. If he has learned to trust the players, he may ask him for help carrying out a preemptive strike on Joseph.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

77. Neotenic Elephants

Elephants had always been on the short list for uplifting. Their natural intelligence and sociability made them seem like obvious candidates. Their long gestation periods and requirements for space, as well as their low numbers and associated genetic homogeneity, however, made uplifting difficult in practice.

One Somatek team had a clever solution. A neotenic elephant, never developing beyond childhood, will stay small, around one meter tall and 140 kg in weight. The trunk can be both strengthened and made more dexterous, giving them an agile, grasping limb. Their general cuteness is an added bonus; it was predicted they would be more accepted by society than other uplifts.

It was as the team was moving from physiological work to mental and social, the beginning of the uplifting process proper, that the Fall occurred. Some of their members and data were evacuated from Earth, but the elephant uplifting process had been dealt a mortal blow it has yet to recover from. Only the physiological blueprints remain, in the form of a neotenic elephant morph.

Mechanics

Neotenic elephants are biomorphs [Expensive 20,000+]

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 50
Wound Threshold: 8
Advantages: +5 SOM
Disadvantages: 1 arm, quadrupeds have a difficult time in microgravity (–30 to Free Fall Tests)
CP Cost: 20

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

76. Earth Reconstruction Therapy

Earth reconstruction therapy sought to treated traumatized fall survivors with a recreation of pre-fall earth life, slowly easing patients into the reality of the post-fall system. Infugees often struggle with culture shock, social isolation, and the simple practical difficulties of life in space, on top of any mental trauma. Psychosurgeons and therapists have found that comfortable, familiar environments aid recovery of many patients.

Many of the patients, however, have refused any attempts to remove them from the simulation. They are embracing their simulated but familiar lives, resisting all attempts to acclimate them to the real world. It is possible they will have to be forcibly ejected from the simulation, but this would seem like a second Fall, compounding on their existing trauma. Several hypercorps made offered to purchased the simulspace, intending to allow the patients to maintain their denial, maintaining the system as an Earth-like test-bed for new products.

Plot Hook: An Argonaut archivist has uncovered records suggesting that a hypercorp committed crimes against humanity. The acts were witnessed by one of the reconstruction patients. Can the players extract the witness before the hypercorp buys the simulation?

Monday, March 16, 2015

75. Crèche-Wolf

A crèche-wolf looks like a large, hairless dog with flat black eyes. It has neither feet nor paws, but all four limbs end in human hands. The hands give it good balance and grip, and it can still run on its knuckles for speed. Its mouth extends farther back along its head than any natural canine; it can open its jaws very, very wide. When it does so, it reveals a human face and two grasping human arms, as if someone it swallowed is reaching out from its stomach.

The tactics of crèche-wolves in combat depend on whether it is acting alone or as part of a pack. If acting alone, the crèche-wolf will attack only from ambush, and flee if unable to engage on its own terms. In a pack, however, they become extremely aggressive, rushing towards targets from multiple directions. A crèche-wolf will usually attempt to tackle a victim to the ground, open its jaws, and pull the victim into its mouth with its arms.

Mechanics

COG 5 COO 20 INT 15 REF 20 SAV 5 SOM 25 WIL 10
INIT 6 SPD 2 DUR 45 WT 9 DR 75 LUC 20 TT 4 IR 40

Skills: Climbing 30, Fray 30, Freerunning 40, Infiltration 40, Intimidation 40, Perception 30, Unarmed Combat 50
Enhancements: Bioweave (Heavy), Cyberclaws, Neurachem (Level 1), Muscle Augmentation
Movement Rate: 4/30
Attack: 1d10 + 6 DV, AP -2
Armor: 3/4

The crèche-wolf is one example of the beings a crèche gives birth to, but there are infinite varieties. A crèche is an opportunity to use fantastical monsters in an Eclipse Phase game.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

74. Crèche

Crèche infestations are one of many reasons salvage teams don't come back, and the rest keep incendiaries and disassemblers handy. When the ship or hab they open is filled with soft, white flesh, they throw as much fire, plasma and nanites at it as they have, and run. Those who encounter the beings those masses give birth to are generally either killed, or recruited into Firewall.

The mass of tissue is soft, and yields too easily to the touch. The surfaces are covered in complex ridges, like the gills of fungi. There are sometimes slowly contracting holes, places where the ridges have been pushed apart by something emerging. The mass is largely unaffected by bullets, but area-of-effect weapons, explosives and disassemblers are very effective. Inhalation of particles blown off by weaponry will invariably infect the unfortunate inhaler.

Mechanics

Crèche is a biological strain, infecting biomorphs and pods.

Stage 1: (Initial infection to one month) In the early days of infection, the only symptom is an increased appetite. The victim will begin to gain weight, but not as fat. A new type of tissue is growing throughout the victim's body: a fibrous, pseudo-fungal network grown from hijacked lymph nodes. The infection can only be diagnosed with a tissue sample or detailed medical scan.

Stage 2: (One month to two months) Once the infection has infiltrated the victim's brain, and built a sufficient store of energy and nutrients, it will induce a nesting compulsion in the victim. They will gather as much organic material as they can manage, piling it into a hidden niche. When they are satisfied that they have enough, they will burrow into it. The infection will no longer maintain its host's body, using it and the gathered organic matter as it grows. The growing flesh is a pale, off-white globe, with ridges and valleys tracing its surface.

Stage 3: (Two months+)  Once a critical volume (not mass) is reached, the flesh has become a crèche. A simple, but powerful genetic computer, it endlessly recombines the genetic material of its former victim. Any of these combinations that prove viable are gestated, slowly moved from the center of the crèche to the periphery and expelled once mature. The behavior of the beings, like their anatomy, are not consistent, except for basic instincts not to harm the crèche and to bring it organic matter. 

Left alone, a crèche's expansion will be limited only by the volume of it's environment and the amount of organic matter it can absorb. A very mature example might fill every square centimeter of a ship or station, packed with the unborn, waiting for there to be enough room for delivery.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

73. Predictive Profiles

Behavioral psych software automatically can build a psychological profile based upon a subject's data. A skilled psychosurgeon/AI programmer can graft that profile on an AI framework, creating an AI that, while definitively non-conscious, acts in ways consistent with the original. Such an AI can be used to predict the actions and decisions of important figures.

An arms race has developed between the major polities, developing predictive profiles for their most important opposition. The autonomists are at a disadvantage; in a sousveillance society, useful subject data is easy to come by, whereas the important figures of the Planetary Consortium and Jovian Republic generally appear only in scripted appearances, which are much less useful for creating profiles.

If you have computer power to spare, genetic algorithms can bring your profiles to another level. Generate as many profiles as is practical, slightly randomize them, and recombine them based on their ability to predict the behavior of their subject. Given enough time, such a profile might approach ego status, qualifying as a fork or AGI.

Plot Hook: A predictive profile of one of the Titanian Commonwealth's social democrat party's president, created by an Extropian psychological warfare service on the behalf of the Planetary Consortium, has become so well refined and fleshed-out it qualifies as a high-level delta fork. Then the fork was leaked, or possibly escaped. A major diplomatic incident, possibly even the re-ignition of war between the inner and outer system is possible, and the fork has turned to the players for help.

Friday, March 13, 2015

72. Flight Bladder

Flight is one of the old dreams of humanity, and, even with petals, experimental psychosurgery and and new senses, it is one of the most sought after experiences. Many rent or buy flight capable morphs, or spend time in flight-oriented simulspaces. Sometimes, flight is not elegant. The flight bladder is merely practical at best, often slow and ungainly, and scorned by neo-avians. Some find, however, a pleasant laziness in drifting effortlessly through the sky.

A flight bladder works by taking in light-than-air gasses (usually helium, from convenient tanks) and storing it, for as long as days. The bladder can exhale small amounts of gas at a time, for propulsion or when it is time to return to ground. A bladder cannot be used in environments where gravity is too heavy, and/or atmosphere is to light. They are redundant in micro or zero gravity. For those reasons, they have caught on primarily on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Flight bladders are most popular among neo-octopuses, whose body-plans adapt well to drifting and floating. Often it is an easy replacement for the ink-sac. The bladders, are redundant to neo-avians, not strong enough for most synths, and unless installed and used very carefully, render hominids hilariously off-balance.

Mechanics

A flight bladder is bioware [Moderate]

A flight bladder grants a morph the microlight mobility system, as the robotic enhancement.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

71. Instinct Sets

The instincts that transhumans are born with, whether they are humans, human-based AGIs, or uplifts, are unsuited to post-singularity worlds at least as often as not. To those who are willing, however, this need not be a problem. Their ancient but irrelevant instincts can be replaced with those designed to meet the world they now live in.

An instinct set is created in imitation of an effective AI. Neural networks are trained to perform sets of tasks in simulation. Once they have achieved acceptable levels of success, the methods they have developed are analyzed, and the networks are streamlined. Ideally, the result is a breakdown of successful behaviors into sets of rules, and a neural network that follows those rules. These are the guidelines used during psychosurgery to wire new impulses and intuitions. Done correctly, someone who has never seen a gun in person will dive for cover instantly when fired upon, and day-traders will feel no reason to throw good money after bad.

Instinct sets can cover any topic that can be simulated, and range from "Game Theory in Politics" to "Freefall for Mud-Farmers" and "Surviving Exposure to Vacuum".

Mechanics

Most of the effects of an instinct sets should be roleplayed. Mechanically, they can be treated as re-fluffed skillsofts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

70. Sappers

Sappers have become infamous in the decades pre and post-Fall. They are automated mine-layers and manufacturers, rendering swathes of ground intensely dangerous. Many infugees were ultimately killed by mines created by sappers belonging to both desperate, dying militaries and suborned by TITANs. They are still common around the TITAN Quarantine Zones, and are used by militant groups as automated saboteurs and trappers. They are disconcertingly uninteresting, with a generic arachnid/crab body-plan, designed to keep a low profile.

Sappers are by no means the smartest robots, but they can be very clever within their specialization. When activated, a sapper will analyze its environment, looking for chokepoints, common pathways, roads, and any areas that appear well used or traveled. The minefields it creates are designed for its specific area of operations; it is smart enough to plant large, anti-vehicle mines on roadways, scatter anti-personnel mines along trails, plant charges that will collapse bridges and tunnels, and even rig traps into local devices and furniture. They contain libraries of potential explosive and non-explosive devices, and while frag, HEAP and plasma are common, everything from EMPs to toxic gasses can be found as weapons in the sapper's arsenal.

Once a sapper has either saturated its area with mines or exhausted its feedstock, it will use its chameleon skin and/or grip pads to hide itself, often burrowing into regolith or clinging to ceilings. It will wait, scavenging for materials and rebuilding its minefields, until destroyed or ordered to stand down.

Mechanics

Sappers are robots [High]

They must typically be supplied with special feedstock for fabricating explosives [Low]

Movement Rate: 2/20 Max Velocity: 20 Armor: 8/8 Durability: 40 Wound Threshold: 8 Mobility System: Walker

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Chameleon Skin, Enhanced Vision, Grip Pads, Fabber, Utilitool

Mines can be treated as micro, mini or standard seeker warheads.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

69. Erosion Gun

An erosion gun, also called an ablation gun and a duster, is halfway between a sandblaster and a shaped charge. Based on the use of abrasive blasting and cutting in industry, the gun uses a powerful electromagnetic field to accelerate a fine dust (usually of copper) to speeds of several kilometers per second. The particles, at this speed, move through their targets as if they were fluids, doing damage through deformation.

Some barsoomians use the iron-oxides of Martian soil as feedstock for erosion guns, finding a neat symbolism in the use of Mars' traditional red soil as a weapon against terraformers. Use or ownership of erosion guns is restricted on most habitats, due to the ability of the gun to degrade and destroy walls and equipment.

Mechanics

An erosion gun is wielded with the spray weapons skill.

Erosion Gun [Moderate] DV: 1d10 DV Average: 5 AP: Special* Ranges: An erosion gun uses sprayer ranges.

*As with disassembler swarms, both energy and kinetic protect against erosion gun damage, but armor is eaten away, reducing Armor Value by soaked DV.

Monday, March 9, 2015

68. Moon Worms

Alcohol excreting, worm based symbiotic bacterial colonies, usually just called "moon worms" have been a bane for military discipline and a blessing for isolated communities and egos. The moon worm, bought and stored in a desiccated, inert state, becomes active (although always still) when placed in water. If sugars are mixed into the water, the worm's symbiotic bacteria colonies begin metabolizing sugar into alcohol. A worm can be added to any bottle, jug or canteen of water, mixed with locally available sources of sugar and flavoring, and produce an alcoholic drink.

The worms can be the genetically engineered larvae of several species, usually whichever the local ectogenesis labs have the genomes for. They host colonies of engineered symbiotic bacteria whose purpose it is to eat sugars and excrete alcohol. The worm is virtually invulnerable and immortal; when dehydrated it enters a stasis that can be maintained for almost a decade before actual death. The worms were first created on Earth, but the details were lost during the Fall. Some scum swarms maintain gene-lines of worms a half-century old, but this is probably just advertising and local pride.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

67. Smart Camouflage

Before the development of chameleon cloaks, the standard for military uniforms was smart camouflage. Like a chameleon cloak, smart camouflage consists of one network of sensors, and another of emitters. Unlike a chameleon cloak, smart camouflage is not capable of mimicking its background to simulate transparency, but it will continually create dynamic camouflage patterns suited to its surroundings.

Chameleon cloaks may have supplanted smart camouflage for military purposes, but it has been of interest to fashion ever since. Actual camouflage patterns are rarely trending, but the software can be altered to produce more abstract patterns that still react to their surroundings. As commentators have noted, however, it must be used carefully, for it can very easily collapse into a fractal mess.

Mechanics

Smart camouflage is an armor mod [Trivial]

Smart camouflage gives +30 to infiltration tests as long as the wearer is moving no faster than a slow walk.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

66. Smart Constitutions

Power corrupts, but an AI need not be human enough to have corruptible attributes. The increasing precision of formal legal language has met the improving fuzzy logic capabilities of AIs. Many groups are now experimenting with autonomous legal systems.

Writing a smart constitution requires a somewhat different approach than a traditional document; they have trouble with generalities and abstract appeals to justice. Even the smartest constitution tends to err towards literal interpretations, and will favor what was actually written over what may have been intended. They are an effective supplement to a government, but it is a risk to have them themselves govern.

A smart constitution is at its best when working within a formal, written framework. They therefore have served best in extropian influenced habitats, where formal contracts are the foundations of legal systems. Otherwise, they are most often used as hedges against power consolidation in autonomist habitats, carefully defining what can and cannot be done with formal power.

Notes

Inspired by Anders Sandberg's smart contracts.

Friday, March 6, 2015

65. Dissonance Therapy

One of the most carefully handled aspects of psychosurgery is the potential to edit an egos beliefs, whether beliefs of fact or more fundamental questions of values. One of the few seriously proposed and considered procedures to tangle with these areas is called dissonance therapy.

Dissonance therapy is ultimately quite simple. The effected ego is induced into a series of belief systems, chosen to span the as much of the spectrum of transhuman culture as possible. The ego might spend one day with the values of a jovian catholic, another as a barsoomian anarchist, another as an ultimate, and so on. Over the long term, those who have undergone the procedure typically moderate their views, display a more intuitive understanding of the views of others, and a greater ability to draw similarities between systems of belief.

On a few autonomist habs, undergoing dissonance therapy is mandatory for all immigrants and those entering adulthood; it is seen as a way of promoting empathy, and moderating extremism. The stresses of the procedure can be significant, however, causing crises of faith, temporary failures of identity and general confusion. For this reason, and because mandatory psychosurgery is opposed by many on general principle, the procedure is undergone primarily by voluntary philosophers and psychonauts.

Mechanics

Dissonance therapy is a psychosurgical procedure.

The effects of dissonance therapy are largely reflected by roleplaying, but dissonance therapy is good basis for changing motivations, at the GM's discretion.

Timeframe: 1 week
PM: 0
SV: 1d10

Thursday, March 5, 2015

64. Butterfly Parlor

Butterfly Parlors are one of Luna's most elegant and mildly disturbing high-class eateries, and look ready to move from trend to tradition. A parlor typically serves juices, teas, and carefully engineered butterflies called EatMes, who will attempt to crawl into your mouth.

EatMes are genetically altered in three ways. The most important is an attraction to saliva, which they treat like sugar-water. Second, an enhanced flavor, particularly heightened sweetness. Finally, they have bright and varied coloration, enhanced by a minimalist clear and white interior design. The EatMes fly unrestricted throughout the parlor, sipping from plates of sugar-water and regularly attempting to enter customers mouths, at which point they can be eaten. Many upper-class patrons enjoy the combination of a casual, cafe style atmosphere, enhanced by the elegance of the EatMes, with a key touch of perversion and barbarity.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

63. Screen and Strike

The continued success of the war is measured by its continued production of new methods and tactics; Direct Action is determined that their doctrine will accurately reflect the realities of rapidly changing fields of technology. One of the most effective tactics, adapted for use by martian Rangers and other planet based forces, is the "screen and strike".

The "screen" element consists of small, fast bots, such as saucers. They are equipped with small weapons with high rates of fire (commonly shard pistols or rail smgs) or stunning abilities (commonly microwave agonizers or electrolaser stunners). Each weapon is equipped with a laser sight, capable of painting targets for seekers. The "strike" element can consist of any combat force with sufficient seeker weapons and missiles.

The screen element maintains a circle around the strike element. The size of the circle will depend on the size of the screen element, up to the maximum range of seeker weapons (2 or 3 km). Otherwise, the circle will be as large as possible while still allowing for a dense screen. When a screen bot spots a hostile, it suppresses and/or stuns the target, while using its laser to guide in seekers from the strike element.

Ideally, this tactic allows for a patrol to effectively engage hostile infantry at virtually no risk to themselves, with cheap robots as the only casualties. Realistically, there are weaknesses. The tactic depends on the ability of the screen to detect the enemy; if an infiltrator works their way past, they can hit the strike element directly. The screen element must be produced in great numbers, and are generally not equipped to deal with heavy threats; any hostile that can ignore suppression and stunning can simply push through. Finally, the tactic is designed for 2d open landscapes, it is impractical in urban, 3d or otherwise complex environments.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

62. HARM Suits

A battlesuit type exoskeleton empowers its human wearer with increased strength, armor, and environmental sealing. A soldier's performance can expect to be improved in every way, but mostly when doing things of which a human is already capable.

A HARM (Heavy ARMament load bearing) suit is designed to bring a soldier into a new role on the battlefield. The suits operate in a careful equilibrium; small enough to be operated intuitively, by echoing a body's movements (like most exoskeletons), large enough to carry multiple heavy weapons, but not so large as to present a easy target. They occupy a middle ground, between infantry and vehicle, and are most effectively treated as highly mobile heavy weapons platforms.

The first HARM suits were tested on Ragnarok's desolate landscapes in the war. They have become popular as support for long range patrols, where their mobility allows them to keep a light-infantry pace while providing heavy fire support. They commonly form the strike element of screen and strike patrols

Mechanics

HARM suits are exoskeletons [Expensive]

A HARM suit is typically fitted with two weapons, including autocannons, x4 standard seeker launchers, x24 mini seeker launchers, plasma rifles, sprayers, buzzers or torches. They are unsuited to melee combat and provide no bonuses.

They provide 16/16 armor, but are not enclosed; simultaneous use of vacc suits is typical.

Notes

Inspired by the image Harm Suit Mk3 by Elliot Lilly.

Monday, March 2, 2015

61. Myrmidon

The exhuman now know as Myrmidon was born in the Guanzhou megacity an estimated 16 years before the Fall. He made a meagre living scavenging valuable metals for fabber feedstock, and lived a largely unremarkable life. As the Fall progressed, his skill at scavenging and knowledge of his local neighborhoods enabled him dig in and survive, until he was one of only a handful of scattered human remnants. He was picked up by one of the last desperate rescue missions, and sent to refugee processing on a Go-Nin orbital station.

Go-Nin aptitude tests revealed a bright mind with a talent for unweaving complex systems. Go-Nin gave him training in psychosurgery and put him to work on his fellow refugees, where he excelled. He found his work less and less interesting, however, and left his contract at the earliest available opportunity.

He slowly worked his way to the main belt, where he eventually joined with an exhuman clade conducting experimental psychosurgery on Extropia. Again, he excelled, learning rapidly from the exhumans, eventually playing a key role in the development of fork hives. As soon as the work was deemed reliable, he became a fork hive himself, at which point he spreads across the system.

The Myrmidon sub-group inhabiting the war were invited by Direct Action to participate as non-aligned agents and simulation variables. Planetary Consortium prognostication systems have been predicting rising influence by hives, gestalts and group minds, and Direct Action wishes to study a potential future enemy. For their part, Myrmidon states that they wish the most realistic training possible, although protesting Direct Action executives maintain that Myrmidon, too, are studying future enemies, and may learn too much.

Mechanics

Morph: Fenrir

Motivations: +Exhumanism, +Personal Development, +Survival

COG 20 COO 20 INT 20 REF 20 SAV 10 SOM 30 WIL 20
MOX - INIT 8 SPD LUC 40 TT IR 80 DUR 80 WT 16 DR 160

Active Skills: Climbing 55, Demolitions 50, Disguise 35, Fray 68, Freerunning 50, Intimidation 40, Kinetic Weapons 68, Medicine: Biosculpting 70, Medicine: Implant Surgery 50, Medicine Psychiatry 50, Networking: Hypercorps 40, Networking: Scientists 50, Perception 73, Psychosurgery 75, Seeker Weapons 60, Unarmed Combat 90

Knowledge Skills: Academics: Genetics 60, Academics: Psychology 50, Interests: Cutting-Edge Technology 60, Interests: Exhumans 70, Interests: TITAN Tech 50, Language: Cantonese (Native): 90, Profession: Post-Apocalyptic Survival 50, Profession: Scavenging 50, Profession: Squad Tactics 60

Ego Traits: Anomalous Mind

Morph Traits: Armor (16/16)

Reputation: c-rep 50, @-rep 50

Implants: 360-Degree Vision, Access Jacks, Anti-Glare, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Direction Sense, Ego Sharing (1), Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Extra Limbs (4), Heavy Combat Armor, Lidar, Medichines, Mnemonic Augmentation, Pneumatic Limbs, Radar, Structural Enhancement, T-Ray Emitter, Weapon Mount (External, Articulated, 8)

Gear: x6 Rail Machine Guns w/ AP Rounds, x2 Seeker Rifles w/ HE and Splash Warheads, Nanohives (Repair, Engineering, Protean, Dissasembler)

Armor: 16/16

Note that Myrmidon is a fork hive. The stats given are for typical egos encountered in the war, a martial sub-group. Variation from ego to ego is to be expected.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

60. The War

Ripley: How many drops for you is this, lieutenant?
Gorman: Thirty-eight. Simulated.
Vasquez: How many combat drops?
Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.
Aliens

When a Direct Action employee refers to "the war", they mean something specific. The war is one of the company's most expensive and long-running projects, and can also be given credit for Direct Action dominance in the Planetary Consortium. The war is one of the systems largest and most realistic simulspaces, running on a supercomputer better protected than their highest executives. Running constantly at 3x real speed, many wars, in fact, have been run, with most lasting between one and two years real time (three to six in the simulation).

The war provides dividends for Direct Action in numerous ways. They use the war as training for their personnel, forging veterans in peacetime. The war is used as a testing ground both for prototypes of equipment and new ideas about tactics and doctrine. It is a rich ground of experience for the growth of military AIs, neural-networks and any systems using genetic-algorithms. Careful planning allows the war to be predictive, giving analysts a testing ground for likely future scenarios. Sometimes outsiders are invited to participate, giving Direct Action insight into the methods of units from across the system.

The war currently underway is a counter-insurgency action taking place on a fictional planet named Ragnarok. The surface is mixture of iron-rich regolith and thick sheets of ice, with useful similarities to both Mars and Titan, as well as icy worlds like Ceres and Europa. There are three large, domed cities as well as numerous smaller installations and homesteads. At present, there is a rough stalemate. Direct Action projects force from its orbiting carrier, with green zones in all three cities. The insurgent forces, played by special forces teams and specialized AIs, strike from and vanish into the empty rural landscapes.

The military forces of the war are Direct Action personnel and AIs, but there are civilians as well. Direct Action indentures huge numbers of infugees to live as civilians in the simulation. The indenture contracts are great on paper, as the acceleration of the simulation makes for short contracts in real time. Many infugees, however, having already been traumatized by the Fall, are pushed to and past their limits by life in a war-zone.

Plot Hook: An up-and-coming weapon systems firm has a prototype that will be deployed in the war for testing, and they want to ensure good results. They intend to sneak the PCs into the war using their security clearance, where the PCs can support the prototypes as best they can.

Plot Hook: Direct Action, as the primary military force of the Planetary Consortium, is always of special interest to the Autonomist Alliance. An influential Autonomist has recently learned of the infugees who inhabit the war, and finds it ethically objectionable, but also perceives an opportunity. The players are to infiltrate the war, and supplement its civilians with anarchist saboteurs, provocateurs and sleeper agents. If all goes well, insurrection will sweep over the war, disrupting Direct Action research and development, and provide a powerful symbol for the Autonomists.