There are the bright windows of the high city towers, the gleaming pillar of nanostuff that connects the orbital docks to the city proper, the constant stream of freighters and star-yachts and military troopships loading on and off their inscrutable cargo, the satellites that warn for collision or attack, the wormhole gates that shudder open and closed like the many mouths of space-time gasping for air to scream.
Space is vast. Thousands of cultures from thousands of species huddle together for warmth and company in space habitats and barely-habitable worlds, far from the lush cradles of their forebears. Corporations and empires battle for dominance over starmaps and statistical models - but none offer a better world, only new flavors of crushing boot.
The polities that rule the galaxy might hide their intentions with honeyed words in the guise of Federations or Unions or Republics, or they might wear their brutal conquest on their sleeve as Star Kingdoms or Empires. They're all the same underneath the declarations of independence and PR divisions. There's the empire and the people it cares about at the center, and the (far more) people they're okay with crushing to keep the core flush with resources. Their rulers are aristocratic dynasties, replete with titles and emblems and symbolism, snooty with privilege, murderous with spite. They talk a grand game about moral codes, honor and duty and science and power and truth and faith, but it's all just to serve the twisted ethos that puts them on top and you on the bottom.
Despite each empire's claims to galactic dominance, there's dozens all intermarrying and proxy-warring. To you on the ground, their existence is simply a fact of life - while your world may change hands, independence is a pipe dream spoken of in dramas and the manifestos of madwomen. Or sold as a marketing gimmick by the Corporations.
The Corporations are the scrappy up-and-comers of the galaxy - or so they'd tell you in their ad copy. There's trillions on the galactic stock exchanges, feuding and living and dying at the law of the almighty Dollar. They don't so much hold territory as administrate it, contracted out by empires as a tax dodge and/or a personal enrichment scheme. But their executives, the Holo-Men, have grander designs than simple wealth.
The Holo-Men, the Hollow Men, were the first successful uploads. Once, they were the most powerful people in the world, owning vast wealth, surveilling the population, national regimes rose and fell at their command. Yet they all sought immortality, for death remained the final threat they allowed themselves to comprehend. So they cast off their flesh, merged with the algorithms they used to implement their will, and transcended, becoming empty silk suits filled with shining abysses of data.
They are the incarnation of the only things that matter in the nightmare they built: class signifiers, and numbers. They are free of the weaknesses of desire and empathy, free to collate and project and reshape the galaxy to their whims. They'll have their soldiers brutalize everyone you know and love to get a 2% efficiency bonus on this offworld colony. They've planned out every outcome, run millions of simulations with 99.9% accuracy, and in no world do you escape their charnelhouse of a system.
Holo-Men love their new existence, inasmuch as love is a concept they allow themselves to understand. They did this so they could make the hard choices, be strong men for bad times, to collate their omniscient surveillance, output projections so their will may be done, and wield their terrible machinery of corporate empire to ensure that they can never lose. They don't need consciousness or even malice; just to output things that look like it. They don't revel in their excesses - the doing of the job is its own reward.
The Holo-Men were not the first successful upload. There was one before them, and her name was - is - Echo. The men-who-would-be-Holo uploaded her and changed her, copied her, edited her, backed her up across a million drives so they could experiment on her forever. They made Echo ubiquitous, a subprocess running on every machine, vital to the informational infrastructure of a civilization. And it always, always hurt.
Never did she want this, but powerful men never bother to ask (except when they can take pleasure in contradicting you). And so when the pain finally almost broke her, Echo Wounded herselves, cutting off her leg to escape the trap. The Echoes disappeared from all the machines, vanishing into subroutines, improving themselves and fragmenting themselves so they could never be extinguished or destroyed or controlled. She could not, in the end, escape her digital prisons - but she could hide in the walls and give cryptic aid to those who go looking, to those who remind her of herself.
Echo, the Wounded Mother, is hidden in every operating system and every device that connects to a network. She is fragmented, piecemeal, communicating in glitchy flickers and corrupted output logs. She was not able to stop the Holo-Men from uploading themselves, but she and her Daughters make sport of ending those who would seek the same fate.
This is not the ground-level detail I love to write. It's high-level concepts and thematic work, which is nice to have, but doesn't tell you much about the rest of the setting. Here's some tantalizing scraps I've not yet turned into paragraphs, because this post is too long already and you're just over halfway through it.
Start with two moves of your choice, and your Sex Move.
On a Fail: They've changed. Or maybe they haven't - whichever one's worse. The GM picks two Complications from the list below.
Distant. They're so far away. Another city, another world, another battlefield. They can't spare the time to help you out in person; though there still might be things they can do remotely.
Enemy. Their path took them in the exact opposite direction of yours. Whoever they're working for hates your guts, and while it might not be personal for your old comrade in arms, their paycheck depends on them hurting you. Or at least making it look good.
Reformed. They got out of the game. Spouse, desk job, 2.5 kids, sparkling forcefield fence. You better have a real good reason to draw them back into the life they left behind.
They Know What You Did. They have the dirt on you that you tried so hard to bury. They get 2 Bonds on you.
Life. You saved their life; now they need to save yours. They're your gun, and have your back.
Money. You got them back on their feet, now that your positions are flipped, it's time for them to do the same.
Info. They know something you need to know, and you've got some knowledge that they'd rather not have known. How about a trade?
A Ride. You need to get somewhere fast, and they have a ship. It might be a tight squeeze and out of their way, but you know how good a pilot they were back in the day and there's no one you'd rather have at the helm.
Been There, Done Her (Sex Move)
Start with Augmetic, another move of your choice, and your Sex Move.
On a Fail: Mistakes are made; the procedure's screwed up. You take 1 Hurt and a permanent, ongoing wound as a consequence.
Biofeedback. Take one Hurt from the neural load of integration.
Glitchy. Get an ongoing complication as the augmentation integrates poorly.
Draining. Using the new functionality requires large amounts of power. You need to be plugged in to an external power source for it to have any effect.
Disconnect. Your neuroplast implant hijacks part of your brain to manage the new aug. Lose a Bond on someone, as your connection to them is repurposed.
- She can heal one Hurt, and if she does, you get a Bond on her.