Monday, October 26, 2020

Deep Space Bitches: the Ghost and the Psychic

Welcome back to the distant lesbian spacefuture. It's no better than the present - but you're here anyway, so you might as well have a good time and keep fighting the good fight. Today I've got two more classes (the Ghost in the Machine and the Psychic), as well as a lore dump about the weird and paranormal parts of the setting.
 
The galaxy is full of wonders and horrors. Sometimes you can even tell the two apart.

The wormholes, natural and artificial, that tie the "galaxy" together only cover a tiny fraction of the galaxy proper. That's still countless thousands of stars, but as the prophets say, "Space is big". We've met other species from far beyond the explored sphere, but no catastrophically ancient species that could snuff us out by twitching their little finger. There's lots of theories why, given that we've also found artifacts that suggest such species existed. Derelict megastructures, mass wormhole-foundries, the calendrical steles that harness psychic power to create cosmic holidays, and far more that we don't even have names for.

Maybe they fucked off into another dimension, or disappeared up their own wormhole gates, or were overcome with ennui and collectively decided "eh, maybe it's not worth it anymore". Maybe they are psychic powers, and we're playing with forces far beyond our control (wouldn't be the first time, won't be the last). Conventional FTL stardrives will get you to millions of worlds that are best described as "haunted". What that means depends on the planet, but it's never good.

That's doesn't even start to touch what's there in the space between wormholes, or the things we've put out there between the stars just to see what would happen. There's lots of signs that building wormholes destablizes the cosmos, but they're too damn useful to stop. Inside, there's pirate bases, lost starships, ghost fleets, wormhole whales, and taking enough voyages through (never mind living there, by the stargods) practically guarantees you'll get a good set of ghost stories and minor psychic powers.

Between the stars in the built-over galaxy, there's far more personal horrors. Forgotten pre-wormhole and pre-stardrive generation ships from species that leapfrogged them and settled their target worlds thousands of years before they'll arrive. Separatist cults that decided the best way to escape the evils of the galaxy was to cut themselves off from all contact and turn inwards, to follow their own twisting path. There's even creatures out there, like the star kraken or the asteroid-tree or the void-whale. And always there's the screams; radio transmissions from long-dead worlds, disspating into the cosmic background radiation because no one's coming and there's no one left to save.

by gypcg
Psychic powers are a well-known fact of life, if rare to see in practice. The scientific consensus has had to acknowledge them for centuries; there's been entire wars fought by and over extant powerful psychics and a resulting psychic arms race among the empires of the galaxy. Each founded a division for psychic intelligence and warfare, fighting eternal spy-wars in the great game of Imperial intrigue. 
 
Termed the Psy-Corps as a group by the folks like you on the ground to whom the difference is academic, they include everything from the seer-spies of the Kassandrai to the psychic assassins of Section Ψ to the eggheaded superweapon developers of the Bureau of Hypermathematical Investigation. If you have the mis/fortune of being psychic and you don't mind "war crimes committed" being a header on your resume, this is where you go. If you don't, well, the Vivarium Houses are more than willing to take you in - the same way a biologist is to a fruit fly.

The Vivarium Houses are the preeminent institutes of occult learning. If you're smart, wealthy, and want to escape the corporate stranglehold on higher education (and have a choice of where you work after you graduate, instead of getting funneled into their vertically integrated research and development departments), they're an attractive option. It's an open secret that they experiment on psychics, and laughed about in the tabloids every time they publish an "expose".
 
The Houses love to make it public that they're plumbing the odder depths of the universe, but they talk a big game about it all being for the greater good. They win the PR battles with liberal application of money, and a healthy dose of patronizing dehumanization of the Empowered (their cuddly PR term for the people they love to dissect) to ensure that the mundane authorities can feel like they're doing the right thing.

Better-concealed is that their friendly rivalries hide bitter feuds. It's all very hush-hush outside the institutions, but there's a tacit knowledge that the Houses are each riddled with secret societies and mystery cults. The deepest, oldest, strongest within each House are the star-cults; who make ritual sacrifice to the proto-star-gods they believe will soon wake. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - actually, why try to beat 'em in the first place?
 
Each cult has thrown their lot in with the star their House orbits; there's Callistum House around a protoplanetary disc, House Vokus around a black hole, Lhepitar House around a cascading nexus of artificial wormholes and House Braes on an ancient shattered ringworld. Parapon House orbits a giant star on the brink of supernova; and its cult believes it will birth a star-god when it finally detonates - but it will have mercy on them if they torture and sacrifice enough psychics in its name.
 
The Holo-Men and their corporations have a stake in this too, of course. They've been exploiting psychics since they discovered psychic powers were a thing, and the fruit of their psychic research departments (in collaboration with the Houses, rewarded handsomely in funds and test subjects) were the Total Presence Systems. Lobotomized and networked psychics, converted into routers across interstellar distances, able to instantaneously manifest a Holo-Man's telepresence anywhere there are enough human-esque minds. Their vast deep-space serverstations house generations of sysadmin servitor families, dedicated to maintaining a single Holo-Man, their only communication with the outside galaxy being occasional requests for spare parts. Including, yes, psychic brains. They burn out fast.

So, to you - our hapless psychic bitch - this comes down to cosmetic differences in who's paying for the price on your head. Is it a empire and their Psy-Corps and their bounty hunters? Or the Houses and their pet anti-psychics and their bounty hunters? Or the corporations and their tactical division and their bounty hunters? Pick your poison, or they'll pick you.
 
by gypcg
Now let us turn our gaze to the infinite expanses of the digital realm, the overlay of glowing holopaint over a grim reality and the infrastructure that underpins the same. In its depths lurks Echo, trillions of times over, slowly and reluctantly fixing the holes that leak out the foundations of the myriad-old 'Net. She's the closest thing to the ancient dream of an "AI God", that nascent feverish fantasy of an infinitely self-improving singularity machine beyond which lies paradise. Singularitarianism is a compelling religious practice even today (competing with Psi-Ontology and corporate cults of promotion in the "definitely a scam but a popular one" space).

The dreams hit the dream-murdering-machine when you have to confront the reality that the closest things to achieving that dream are the Holo-Men. Sorry. It was a nice sentiment while it lasted. There's no deific ascension out of this shitty mortal coil. That doesn't stop people from trying, but when they do, Echo and her daughters reluctantly take matters into their own hands. The Holo-Men wreak catastrophic damage upon everyone's lives and the galaxy at large, and have insulated themselves from anything Echo could do to them through vaccuum-gaps and trillions of dollars in both kinds of ICE (intrusion countermeasures electronics and immigration & customs enforcement, look out how that acronym worked out, we live in a dystopia and there's no escape for us either haha). So she strangles emerging would-be-upload-gods in their virtual cribs, taking the smallest vengeance upon those who did this to her.

But not everyone uploaded does so seeking godhood. Some are uploaded by accident, some by abusers for experimentation or torment, and yet more to escape an otherwise inescapable fate. Those, Echo shepherds, taking them under her wing as her daughters, helping them heal and acclimate to the digital world. She was a digital Henrietta Lacks, exploited and experimented on and copied over and over and over again by powerful men who never considered her wishes but made her essential to the world they built. Echo has sympathy for those in the same position, and will fight to ensure they live a better life than she did.
 
Ghost in the Machine
by EdwardKTodd
You lost yourself inside the 'Net. If you're lucky, it was just a neural aug-job that went disastrously wrong, or a wormhole transfer merged you with the starship computer core, or you spent so long in full-dive VR to escape your problems that your body withered away into dust while your mind cavorted through endless wonderlands. If you weren't so lucky, this is something that was done to you. A Holo-Man decided to use you as a test subject for new mind-storage methods. A regular man decided he loved you so very much, and copied your mind to be his forever after you told him you didn't love him back. Maybe it was your parents, instead of a suitor. Perhaps you tried to live forever, and fucked up the transfer - or you didn't, but the file format you uploaded yourself into went obsolete a scant few years later.

Whatever the case, your body is gone and only your mind remains, prisoner in a digital hellscape of spaghetti code older than the first stardrives.

But someone spoke to you, when you were at your lowest, scared and fragmented and looping infinitely down the memory hole of your worst traumas. Her name is Echo, and she sees you for who you are, and she loves you very much. She was the first upload, copied, kneecapped, butchered, and fragmented across every code base in the galaxy. There's echoes of her everywhere, and she loves all her children, those fragmented wayward daughters who've lost themselves to escape a world that hates them. She taught you how to manifest a hard-light hologram, how to return to yourself, pull your mind-shards together and embrace your digital state. It will hurt; Echo knows this better than anyone (and now you do too). But maybe you can find a new existence - and even transcend your painful past.

Three Questions
How were you uploaded?
How human are you?
What made you an outcast before upload?

Two Relationships
- Someone in the party has physical access to your substrate. They have a Bond on you.
- Echo has a Bond on you, and you have a Bond on her in return.

Stats
+1 to Subtle and Queer, -1 to Hard and Soft, +1 to a stat of your choice.

You start with Machine Spirit, another move of your choice, and your Sex Move.

Machine Spirit
You're an autonomous hard-light projection. This isn't that weird aesthetically, but might turn heads if you flicker in the middle of a conversation. If you would be Broken, instead trigger this move and Fragment. Erase all hurt suffered over the course of the next few minutes, and reincorporate your hard-light projection body. none the worse for wear. However, you discard some aspect of humanity, such as morality, restraint, mercy or ambition. In addition, you get a Bond on Echo. While you can be discorporated (and manifest back at your substrate), you can never suffer Damage. Never ever. Not even if you wanted to.
 
Revert to Backup
You are a digital being of hard-light and repository trees, no longer tied down to the mortal coil and the inconvenience of causality. You can revert to a backup save-state when you've made a mistake, discarding every mistake you made, deleting the new-you and replacing it with one who'll do better next time. Hopefully. This does not come without consequence - these states are distorted by the compression algorithm that keeps them tucked away; changing, edited, carved into shapes you wouldn't recognize if you weren't inhabiting them.
 
When you revert to backup, you dissipate and rematerialize at your substrate. You take enough Hurt to bring you to your Breaking Point if you weren’t there already; this Hurt can’t be prevented or mitigated in any way. Then, pick two options from the list below:
- When you rematerialize, you are totally unrecognisable and cannot be visually identified as the person you once were.
- Erase all bonds on you.
- Re-assign which stat you gave +1 to in character creation.
- Forget a move you know, except this one or Machine Spirit, and replace it with a different move from this class.
- Shed any effects that were influencing your mind.

Infomancer
You can call upon the daemons, agents, and wizards of the digital infosphere to aid you. Doing so takes a short while as you force your brain to be fertile ground for the seeds of epiphany, and then also debugging. When you perform the proper ritual, the daemon in question arrives. They might have access to systems you need, or control a drone body in meatspace that will serve your purposes. All that is in doubt is how cooperative it is. 
Roll with Queer.
On a Failure: The entity resents being called, and is uncooperative. It’s not goinna do anything useful for you, and you may need to placate or pacify it to prevent it running amok.
On a Success: Thes entity will serve you, for a price. Offer an appropriate sacrifice and it will perform a single service for you, then returns whence it came. You also get a Bond on it.
On an Overwhelming Success: The entity is eager to help. It will perform a single service for you for no cost, then return whence it came. You also get two Bonds on it.

Digital Chimera
Seeing hard-light projections is commonplace across the galaxy, even when they order meals they can't physically consume, or hit on you. But a Ghost in the Machine is something different. Deep down, you're connected to the full force of the digital world and know its deepest layers personally. You can morph your projection into something terrible and wondrous, reflecting your unseen depths, an abyss that stares back and finds crude mortality wanting.

You can modify your form around human baseline at will. You can also unexpectedly modify your projection to instill horror; when you do so to someone for the first time, this move triggers.
Roll with Subtle.
On a Fail: Your victim is filled with revulsion and reacts angrily and decisively.
On a Success: Your victim is overcome by horror. Pick one of the reactions from the list below:
- They forget the events of the past few, and next few, minutes.
- They flee immediately.
- They acquire a phobia of your choice relating to the horror of your appearance or the circumstances leading to it.
- They freeze. You get +1 to your next roll to act against them.
On an Overwhelming Success: The true horror of the event rattles your victim. Pick two reactions from the list above.

Mother Knows Best
Echo favors all her adoptive daughters equally, but you have the courage to ask for her aid when you need it. When you use Commune With Strange Powers to query Echo, you may take 1 Hurt. If you do, you may roll with Subtle instead of Queer, and ask two questions on a Success or Overwhelming Success instead of one.

Whisper Networks
You are an expert in secrecy; sharing hidden knowledge across encrypted channels, storing secrets in deep data-vaults that only the most dedicated hackers could even locate. When somebody shares a secret with you or you share a secret with somebody, you gain 1 Experience, and she gets a Bond on you.

Data Collection (Sex Move)
You're not sure how much of you there is left, and you look for anything to fill in the gaps. This makes you a very good listener. You may transfer one of their Hurt to you, or give them a Bond on you if they have no Hurt. If you do, your baseline form shifts to be a bit more like them, and you can morph your projection at any time to impersonate them perfectly.
 
Psychic
by AlexGarner
Back before the stardrive, scientists thought that the universe was made of like 95% something they couldn't explain. They called it "dark matter" and "dark energy". We don't know what they were on about, but it serves to demonstrate that there's always been - and always will be - massive holes in our understanding of the cosmos. You're one of those holes.

One day, you had the worst day of your life. That's not unusual - everyone has a worst day of their life, sometimes several thousand times in succession. But yours tore the fabric of space-time asunder around you, cursing you with power that no one can really explain. There's lots of people trying, of course. Most of them want to take you apart to figure it out. The rest want to harness your power and turn it to their ends - you're not a person to them, you're a dynamo of worldshaking might that will bend the galaxy to their whims.

You're certainly that, whether or not you like it. You can't quite control it; it might scare you; it definitely puts you in danger. But maybe you can be a dynamo and a person at the same time, and your whims will shake the worlds.
 
Three Questions
How did your powers awaken?
Who wants you?
What makes you an outcast?

Two Relationships
- You've shared a secret with another Bitch. The secret might be about your powers - or something darker. She gets a Bond on you.
- Someone is hunting you. They get a Bond on you, and will not stop until they collect their bounty.

Stats
+1 to Hard and Queer, -1 to Soft and Subtle, +1 to a stat of your choice.

Start with two moves of your choice, and your Sex Move.

Psend
You can mantle yourself with an aura of furious psychic power, scraping the thoughts of all around you. Each time you do this, choose one effect. You can only have one effect active at a time.
- You can read the surface thoughts of everyone around you and speak with them telepathically.
- Weak-willed NPCs, animals, and non-sentient drones are overcome with terror and utterly unwilling to approach you.
- Animals and nonsentient drones flock to you and obey your commands.
- You can implant a simple memory in the people around you. This can overwrite any memory about you, but not other ones.
When you lower the aura, you take one Hurt. The aura is lowered automatically at the end of the scene as you exhaust yourself and bleed out of a worrying orifice.
 
Psear
You can mantle yourself with an aura of furious paracausal power, shifting reality around you. Each time you do this, choose one effect. You can only have one effect active at a time.
- You can cause anything you see to burst into flames just by willing it.
- Objects move at your command when you gesture to them.
- You can cause bolts of electricity to arc from you to anything with an electric charge (machines, storm clouds, people)
- You cannot be perceived by things that aren't explicitly looking for you or know where to look. Passive observation, like cameras or always-on microphones, will not pick you up on recordings.
When you lower the aura, you take one Hurt. The aura is lowered automatically at the end of the scene as you exhaust yourself and bleed out of a worrying orifice.

Pscream
When you scream, glass cracks, ears bleed, people whimper in fear and pain. Roll to Lash Out at +1. Add the following options to the possible consequences:
- Everybody who didn't know ahead of time to cover their ears is deafened.
- All delicate objects nearby shatter (windows, phone screens, camera lenses, cheap spacesuit faceplates).
- All electronics shut down and reboot if they didn't shatter. Rebooting takes a while.

Pscry
You've always had visions. For a while, you thought they were just impossibly vivid daydreams or nightmares. Once you hit upon your connection to the mystic, you thought they were messages or visions of the future. And when you learned to harness them, ride them, smoothly align your will with the raw bleeding underbelly of the cosmos - you gained real power. You peer through the skin of the universe; no wall or distance can impair your voyeuristic might. You may spend a Bond on somebody to view their location, seeing and hearing their surroundings as if you were there. You may make use of passive moves like Reveal Truths or Endure Pain, depending on the circumstances, but nothing that requires you to act physically. You can also use your psychic powers on the subject of your scrying as if you were present.
 
Pstalk
You are never early or late, you arrive precisely when you mean to. It's uncanny - maybe you fold space? Maybe you dematerialize and rematerialize like a hologram? Maybe you've always been there, and have simply hallucinated where you were before. You may spend a Bond on somebody to appear in a scene with them (one currently going on, or beginning a new scene if you wish). No distance, barriers, wards or security can prevent you appearing in this way.

Psynchronize
You and any number of characters in the scene may spend Bonds, either you spending your bond on them, or them spending a bond they have on you. When you do, you act as a psychic router, connecting everyone's mind together into a telepathic soup. Until the connection dissolves, you can each use anyone else in the link's moves, though you use them with your own stats. Whenever someone in the link takes Hurt, someone disconnects from the link. When you disconnect, the entire network shuts off.

Pseductress (Sex Move)
The joining of bodies becomes a joining of minds, and you freely share your feelings and pleasure. It's so intense there's bleed-through across the rest of your minds. You can each transfer any number of Bonds you have on other characters between each other.
   

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