Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Respirocyte and You

ORIGINAL PUBLICATION: Titan University Biomedical Journal
AUTHOR: Abascal, Javier
RETRANSMITTED BY: IntelliWeb
COST: J$5 w. IntelliWeb subscription
REQUESTED BY: Mendel, Ivo

PrimeCare, Star Care, Auragen, Vocalin, and Meditek all share one thing in common with the Kartikeya Industries BattleSurgeon, and that is the use of the respirocyte. What exactly is this oddly named little device? Why, dear reader, the respirocyte is a short-lived blood borne nanite. A mechanical replacement for a red blood cell, capable of everything a red blood cell can do and so much more.

Function. Respirocytes are what make the BattleSurgeon possible. While many lesser forms of in-combat medical care rely merely on adrenaline, blood transfusion, platelete release, and other mundane forms of medicine, the BattleSurgeon actually has all of these and more. Whether its boosting neuro-response time with myelin enhancers or actually closing wounds as they occur, the BattleSurgeon relies on one simple tool for delivery. PrimeCare and Auragen have both been developing their own hospital grade of this mysterious device, which was perfected by Meditek eight years ago. That is, the respirocyte.

The function of a respirocyte is to deliver clotting factor, skinweave, and myelin enhancers directly to the site of damage. These nanomachines can act from within the body and reach anywhere that blood or cerebrospinal fluid is capable of reaching. Damaged areas can be walled off while new organs or lobes are repaired. The only limit to the nanomachines are their power supply, their essentially electrical nature, and the supply of raw organics for reconstruction.

Respirocyte organics, mostly supplied by the Prime One LSI, come in the form of living protocellular matter. These undifferentiated cells (stem-cells) can be given instructions by the respirocyte to mimic any form of cell in the subject's body. This means fast-repairing wounds even while new ones are being sustained. A person with respirocytes in their bloodstream would be able to repair damage even from depleted uranium rounds almost as fast as it could be dished out. Of course, under a sustained hail of fire even someone with respirocytes in their blood will go down.

Fuel. Apart form biomass, respirocytes require power. This is one of their limitations. They must be outfitted with microcells. These cells are only good for a short period, and respirocytes are notorious energy hogs. They must communicate with the BattleSurgeon (though autonomous mesh-computing respirocytes have been possible for some time, I've yet to see them on the market) and constantly relay a stream of data to the central system for direction.

Electricity. Their reliance on power cells and electrical energy for motivation makes respirocytes prone to EMP pulse. Though they are outfitted with a thin biological skin to cause white blood cells to ignore them, this skin is unable to properly replicate the antigen forms when the power is off. Therefore, any sustained EMP pulse will not only disable the respirocytes, but severely weaken the subject's immune system as their white blood cells fight the disabled nanites.

A note on myelin enhancement. This obviously requires the respirocyte to cross the blood-brain barrier. In order for this feature to be enabled, the BattleSurgeon needs a cerebro-spinal plug, which risks infection as well as dangerous feedback if the Surgeon is damaged or removed. However, Kartikeya believes the enhancements provided are well worth the risk. Increased reaction time, attentiveness, and improved decision-making allow subjects with BattleSurgeon Spinejacks to move as fast as mechanically possible. With the introduction of bioweave muscle enhancements, this can be very very fast indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fees and Services in the 22nd Century

Thank you for choosing IntelliWeb Services. Fee listings begin following the buffer.

***----***
<acquiring signal>
<buffering>
<correcting datastream>
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 /

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<connected to IntelliWeb Server, MARS>
<routing through ARES CITY>
<retrieving fee_listings.bf>
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FEE LISTINGS

These services may be purchased as licenses at character creation, in which case they are considered paid for permanently. Else, they must be refreshed at the beginning of each fiscal period (generally each quarter). All of the following prices represent individual seats. Corporate seats generally cost ten times the listed amount in Junkets [or +5 build points].

IntelliWeb and Foreign Relations (INTLI, J$12.05, +0.001)

A subscription to IntelliWeb runs J$1,000/quarter. It costs 5 build points at character creation. IntelliWeb is a Prime Three Corporation that operates under the radar of most major corps. Mechanical Turks often resort to IntelliWeb for lookups, as do certain branches of corporate espionage and sabotage. IntelliWeb provides analytical essays on most subjects, equivalent to the research produced by Titan University in scope, but geared toward an Intrasystem Security audience, detailing conflicts and potential weaknesses as well as detailed corporate information in the security sector.

IntelliWeb access can provide a bonus on knowledge rolls and information gathering rolls when dealing with specifically intersystem relations and security topics.

University of Titan (UOT, J$21.11, -0.07)

Access to the vast University of Titan archives is expensive; J$5,000/quarter or 15 build points. However, the U of T has a vast array of data at its command. A true research university, Titan provides fact sheets on every major corp, scientific advancement, historical event, legal case, etc. All knowledge-based rolls are made with a +5 bonus when using U of T information.

The University is a Prime Two corporation, hovering on the edge of being demoted down to Prime Three because of its current association with the anarchist activities on Titan.

PrimeCare (PCARE, J$500.08, +1.09)

PrimeCare is the most expensive and most well-known medical group in the system. A subscription costs J$50,000/quarter or 25 build points. PrimeCare operates a number of Turing-monitored hospitals, complete with Autosurgeons and top quality care facilities. PrimeCare subscriptions include implantation of a tracker chip to monitor the subscribee's life signs and vitals; if they register trouble, the subscribee is contacted immediately. Failure to connect results in a PrimeCare Recovery Team, dispatched immediately to bring the subject to the nearest medical facility.

PrimeCare is one of the only Prime One corporations that is not a subsidiary of any member of the Permanent Six. Most of its technology is rented from Auragen and Sol Telecomm.

Star Care (SCARE, J$102.00, +0.0001)

Star Care is a rung down from PrimeCare; a Prime Two corporation, Star Care covers most of the system when it comes to health. A subscription to Star Care costs J$9,000/quarter or 10 build points. Star Care charges for ambo dispatches and recovery teams at some pretty high rates, and subscriptions only cover basic procedures and non-electives.

NewsNet Live! (NNL, J$80.88, +2.50)

This news service is commonly paid for by whatever corporation grants citizenship. However, there are enough mercenaries, freeboters, and low-level partners of Prime Five corps out there in the system that it's possible this service will have to be purchased privately. Newsnet access costs J$200/quarter for an individual seat, J$1,000/quarter for a ten seat package, and J$15,000/quarter for a five hundred seat package. Enterprise-facing deals beyond that range must be worked out privately with NNL. A subscription costs 5 build points.

Sol Package (STC, J$10.20, +1.03)

The Sol Package is a service offered by Sol Telecomm for those without telecomm access. This J$150/quarter service provides wireless network access to the Sol routers and datastreams anywhere that wireless can be had. While this is unimportant in major settlements or highly settled planets where the corps absorb the cost of wireless, this can be a massive boon in space where there is no Meshwork to ride off of. This costs 2 build points.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Why Wet Hot American Summer (First Day of Camp) is better than The Brink

Note: This was written before I saw last Sunday's episode of The Brink. I think that, while this argument still holds true for earlier episodes of the show, starting two weeks ago it finally began to hit its stride and find a place where it was comfortable with itself. This past week's episode was actually directed quite well and the transformation of the show from a sitcom romp into something more, which has been underway for several episodes, is finally complete with the tension surrounding Alex Talbot and Zaman.

Essentially, the Brink is manifesting into the thing I knew it could be. I can only hope it continues to improve from here.

I love everything that The Brink wants to be. It's a smart, well-written show with well-developed characters that spool out over a very tightly plotted arc. It's doing everything right... right?

Contrast Netflix's new Wet Hot American Summer (First Day of Camp). The writing is tight in terms of plot, but the show plays for low gags, basic humor, and sequences that occur completely outside of narrative time (just like its successor, the Movie). Character development is ridiculous.

Yet Wet Hot American Summer is a better television show. It's more affective than The Brink. Where I wonder why I'm supposed to care about the characters in The Brink, outside of the excellent manner in which they're written, I wonder why I do care so much about the characters in WHAS.

The answer, I think, has to do less with the writing and more with the cinematography, acting, and direction. That's right. David Wain, the voice of Superjail's the Warden, is a better director than... The Brink's showrunner and writer, Benabib? Well, whoever is responsible for its style. Because it has none.

WHAS is oozing with style. Cinematography is great, imparting monumental importance to the most mundane activities. That's the real difference: the Brink is filmed like a modern comedy. Everything is irreverent, and very little has any weight. The comic timing is thin, even from Jack Black. Tim Robbins is carrying that show, and that's a shame because there is golden writing lurking in there. The American head-of-mission? He's written like one of Salman Rushdie's darkest lunatics, but he's portrayed (through no fault of John Larroquette, who is great) like a complete ham.

Where is the sense of gravity that makes this work? Where is the comic timing of Dr. Strangelove? It can be seen in flashes and flits, but even when Jack Black turns on his friend and refuses to allow him to leave the embassy, it still "feels" like a comedy.

I have very high hopes for this show. Even if it never matures into what I want it to be, its writing is great. But I want it to live up to the potential of its scripts.

ADDENDUM: I watched the end of True Detective Season 2. Episode 7 surpassed it by far. With all the endings accounted for, its just a failed film noire. Very interesting in that they made the femme fatale a man, but all in all? A failure for Pizzolatto.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

News from Arunia: The Fall of the Schola

Hark, ye friends! Surely you heard the great thunder upon the hill this week last? Aye, up where the wizards hide in their enclaves. That was no mere storm among the stones. I have the true tale, if you'll sit and listen. And mayhaps you'll slake a thirst or two? Kind of ye, goodman, too kind! I know the story from the lips of the folk who saw it, so you should take my word!

A great and unwholesome movement there's been in the Black College of late. That jumble a' ruins upon the hill has given the city fair fright for several generations, I dare say. Old King Roland the Wise cleared it of its most vile offenders when he slew the Black Order in his heyday, but the place has sat there like an evil spider upon the hillside ever since. I suppose it must've offended adventurers since the very day Roland drove out the sorcerers. There have been legend and rumor about it since afore then, with popular whispers having it that the College was the residence for ghosts, or demons from the Seven Hells, or worse. And folks seemed, for a long time, to fall ill mysteriously and die and oft they'd live within a few blocks of that cursed verge.

So it was with some keenness to the ear, sharpened hearing as it were, and softness on the soles that I spent my nights spying out the mysteries of that place. For I saw a shining band of folk go in and ne'er return. And then there came another troupe of adventuring folk. They changed their number and attacked the place a few times. They must've disturbed something within; something dark.

For this week past, a cloud of shadow gorged forth from the College. Men of jet stone, two in number, walked from beneath its archway. They rumbled up the Wizard's Hill to the walls of the Schola herself where they set to work tearing out the golden sigils upon the Imperial Wizards' curtain wall. When mages came to investigate, the things went to work on them. Within short order, a handful of mighty wizards were felled by stony fist and jet-black strength. Sorcery rolled off their shoulders like water on the slate, dear friends! If you can believe it, they felled mage after mage, none doing so much as a hurt to the beasts!

Lightning bolts there were, and mighty rivers of fire. But nothing could stop the onslaught. At last the secret council of the wizards emerged from the depths of their School to confront the visitors at their gates. There was shouting, and blasts of power the likes of which the city has not seen in two Ages past. At last the stony wardens fell, their skin of flint and jet cracking little by little until it gave.

But the greater bulk of the Schola was destroyed. I saw 'em fall! Four old men emerged as the victors, and they made haste to the ruins of the old College. Another magical battle ensued, though between whom and what I couldn't say. When I returned the following morning, they were hustling out of there with donkeys laden with books, chests, ink, parchment, scrolls, and wood. The Schola and the College... all abandoned. Can ye believe it?

Game Effects: The Imperial Wizard kit is effectively closed. All imperial wizards with the kit lose access to the Schola's resources and are no longer required to report to it. Future wizards with Schola background are assumed either to have survived the massacre or to have been out of the city when it was committed.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Genetic Dynasties

“Aggressive genetic engineering leads to an increased rate of cancer and cancer-recidivism amongst all age groups. However, the older the recipient, the more likely high rates of transcription errors will result.”


Excerpted from Wang Lu’s “Memo Advising Against Tampering,” an Amtech report on post-birth retroviral engineering, compiled in 2089 and eventually submitted to the ASC for consideration in 2101


Gengineering is a complicated, difficult, and expensive process. Further, the Allied Systems Conference has agreed to a number of gengineering conventions that make it legally dubious to undertake. Applicants for gengineering must present documents proving full citizenship in an ASC signatory corporation as well as numerous blood and gene sequencing tests. Due to the risks associated with post-birth gengineering (including very high cancer rates), the ASC levies a nearly crippling premium on all gengineering labs which engage in post-birth work. Indeed, insurance carriers will frequently refuse all insurance to gengineered citizens.

However, pre-birth gengineering by use of retroviral rewriting (r-writing), is somewhat common among the wealthiest upper citizens. The first uses of r-writing on embryos were made legal in the 2040s under old Earth governments, but remained prohibitively expensive. As the Piketty Effect* predicted, the wealthiest entrepreneurs who could afford r-writing and other more primitive forms of gengineering produced offspring with tangible, objective benefits. The first Calculators** were born from the ranks of the ultrawealthy.

Once the ASC protocols were in force, the various fines and insurance bumps made certain that gengineering one's offspring would be forever out of the reach of the bourgeois and working classes. As the capitalist class slowly transformed into a society of rentiers and copyright owners, gengineering produced other tangible benefits.

These stratified groups of gengineered ultrawealthy have become somewhat commonplace among the upper echelons of corporate society in the 22nd century. Thus were established the so-called Genetic Dynasties of the early 22nd century. These dynasties trace their lineage back to a pair of ur-parents who added the final gengineered touches to their offspring. The wealthier families may have two or three cadet branches (altered by different means, or with different ends in mind) amongst their dynasties.

This lineages are well-known for sharing certain traits. For example, the now defunct Meng Dynasty shared Calculator-level mental abilities and abstraction, Augments that were specially designed to interface with gengineered neural changes, and a tendency to require a great deal more sleep than other human beings. Indeed, most dynasties possess one or two strange quirks that are the result of early efforts at gengineering, from a common eye color (the Olovsk Dynasty), to progressive neuralgia (the Dauphin Dynasty).

Sample Dynasty Template (Meng)

21 points
The Meng Dynasty, once a powerful Luxing company lineage, has been in disrepute for at least a generation. A Luxing banking scandal engulfed the family's patriarch as well as most of their holdings and swamped them with litigation. When Janus Arbitration terminated the Meng citizenship in Luxing, some members of the lineage turned to hired guns to clear their names.

No Meng has held a high corporate office since.\

Advantages: Lightning Calculator, Talent: Math Ability (two ranks), Tiny Computer Implant [Photographic Memory (Temp. Disadvantage Electrical -20%, Recorded data only -20%)]
Genetic Signature: Extra Sleep (two ranks)

*so named after prominent 21st century French economic theorist Thomas Piketty, who hypothesized that in an unregulated environment, capital would tend to concentrate in the classes that already had capital.

**the 22nd century term for all human beings possessed of superhuman calculation skills, taking the term back from the computers which held it for several hundred years.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Search Corporation

Search Corporation

UTS SRCH, Trading at J$80.45 (+0.03 from this morning)

PARENT CORP: Kartikeya Industries

Search was founded in 2091 by the merging of the ARCLAB and Bayo Stellar Instruments corporations under a Kartikeya umbrella. Search is a stellar mapping concern which owns a 12.59% stake in Ganymede where its headquarters are located. Partnering with IRR Construction Systems' Think-Hub on Europa, Search has been engaged in the mapping of long-distance stellar routes for nearly twenty-five years. 

Search is one of the most well-known corps employing freelance scientists, particularly those in the Outer System beyond all but the most nominal reach of the ASC. Reports indicate that Search has a number of contacts in the Titan Collective, regardless of the ASC's strenuous embargo against that anarch-syndicalist movement. Search citizenship is often granted to long-term contractors on the belief that freedom of movement in the Inner System data networks can assist in collation of data.

When the Long Journey (also called the Expedition) left the System, it was using Bayo data that Search now owns. Quantum Antennae onboard the Vago allows Search to remain in contact with the Long Journey throughout its entire mission as well as to update the Vago with new stellar telemetry. Search pays for almost any type of observations of distant stars.

In a more mundane sense, Search data is used to orient the LIFI highways in the Inner System and it is rumored that Search scientists are attempting to design a similar highway system for travel to the Outer System. Observational data gathered, confirmed, and transmitted by Search serves as the backbone for much navigation. Competing corporations like Datafi and Deimos Interplanetary Grid (DIG) have been steadily eating into Search's marketshare.

There is a dark rumor that Search also operates as a sort of spy operation. Persistent Net rumors hint that Search updates Kartikeya Corp's fleet twenty to thirty standard minutes before anyone else in the System. One is left to wonder whether Search would issue a data embargo on anyone openly at war with Kartikeya.

***DIGITAL SIGNATURE: Jaq Zhing, University of Titan
***RE: Your daily dose of Corp updates
***Transmission cost J$0.20
***REQUE? Y/N

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Egyptian Kits Part Three: Wizards

As I set forth a few weeks ago, this is the conclusion of Parts One and Two.

Wizard Kits

Amulet Maker
Amulet makers are minor wizards much like scorpion charmers. They are looked down on by the scholarly caste, clerics, and real wizards alike. However, the common folk often buy charms from these masters of spirit-lore.
Requirements: Wisdom 12
Role: Amulet makers are not wizards in the same sense as Hekau are. They do not study spells or enact rituals to call forth magic from the Golden Breath. Instead, they focus on the creation of small magical items and potions which they can either sell or use themselves.
Amulet makers may sell their amulets to the common folk and serve as a local wise-man. They may also reside in noble households and make amulets for the powerful. Many temples often keep amulet makers on hand to equip their servants and clerics with powerful magical items.
Weapon Proficiencies: Since it is needed to make their charms, a dagger is always kept on hand as a free proficiency slot.
Nonweapon Proficiencies:
Bonus Profs: reading/writing (Desert Khewed), pottery
Special Benefits: Amulet makers may create amulets imbued with magical powers. Amulets can take any form, but are often simple seals worn around the neck, ankles, or wrists. The simplest amulets an amulet maker may craft are those that sold to common folk. These cost only 5 copper to manufacture in addition to whatever material it is made of (most often clay, formed by the wizard himself). They may have one of the following effects:
Protection Against Magic: +1 to saves vs. spell
Luck: +1 to saves vs. Breath Weapon
Strong-mind: +1 to saves vs. Petrification
Safety: +1 to saves vs. Rod
Ka: +1 to saves vs. Death

In addition to these simple amulets, Amulet Makers may also create amulets capable of storing wizard spells. While Amulet Makers must learn spells and keep them recorded on papyri, they cannot themselves use magic. Instead, they imbue their amulets with the ability to replicate the power of a spell. These amulets may be used many times, however they are prone to breaking from the strain of the magic contained within. Additionally, each additional time in a 24 hour period that they are used increases this strain. The following chart shows the spell storage capacity of various materials and the costs associated with producing a working amulet of those materials.

Amulet Material Cost Storage Failure Chance
Clay 5 copper 1 25/40
Bone 10 copper 1 25/25
Stone 10 silver 1 15/10
Copper 1 gold 2 15/25
Bronze 2 gold 2 15/10
Brass 10 gold 2 10/10
Iron 20 gold 3 15/25
Steel 20 gold 3 15/10
Silver 100 gold 3 10/10
Silver and Gold 500 gold 4 15/25
Gold 1000 gold 4 15/15
Gemstone 5,000 gold 5 10/10
Gemstone 8,000 gold 6 -10%/10
Composite 15,000 gold 7 -20%/10
Masterwork 40,000 gold 8 -40%/10

Add +10% failure chance for offensive spells
Add +5% failure chance per spell level
Add +/day% failure chance for every use within 24 hours

Amulet makers may also make magical items as any wizard of the appropriate level. They do not need to use a permanency spell, and any spell they have stored in their memory qualifies as one “being cast” for the purposes of making a magical item.
Special Hinderances: Cannot cast spells as normal wizards.


Hekau

Purity Rating
8 Gold all three effects
7
6 Electrum all spells cast at max effect
5
4 Silver +1 bonus to effective level
3
2 Copper +1 bonus to duration, damage, -1 penalty to saves
1
0 (average) spells cast normally
-1
-2 Iron -1 penalty to duration, damage, +1 bonus to saves
-3
-4 Tin -1 bonus to effective level
-5
-6 Mercury all spells cast at minimum effect
-7 Lead all previous three effects
-8 Profane no spellcasting

Sleep: Immediately after sleeping, the Hekau’s purity rating drops by two levels. Purity returns at a rate of 1 level for every three hours. Every six hour period following this without sleeping increases purity by 1 level (max level 7).

Eating: Immediately after consuming food, the Hekau’s purity rating drops by one level. This may be increased by the DM depending on how much food the Hekau has consumed. Purity returns at a rate of 1 level for every six hours. Every six hour period spent without eating after that adds 1 level purity (max level 6).

Ablution: The Hekau may pay 500 gold multiplied by his next purity level and that number of hours to positively increase his purity. This expenditure purchases time and materials in a sacred temple to perform the rites necessary to purify his body. Negatives are considered positives for the purposes of ablution. To achieve level 0, the wizard need only pay 250 gold and spend 30 minutes in ritual.

Sexual Impurity: Immediately after performing any kind of sexual activity, the Hekau’s purity level drops by three levels.


Contact with Corruption: Being exposed to corrupted food, flesh, or other rotting things will reduce the Hekau’s purity. These objects must touch the Hekau physically without intervening substances (ie, the Hekau may wear gloves to handle the dead). Each individual contact reduces the Hekau’s purity rating by one.